Iqaluit Town Council says yes to PCB incinerator project
A consortium of Inuit development corporations called Pan Arctic Inuit Logistics will form a joint venture with a company called Cintec-Tredi Inc. to build a PCB incinerator in Iqaluit, if they win a contract from DND.
IQALUIT — A proposal to bring a PCB incinerator to Iqaluit has cleared a potential stumbling block and may be one step closer to fruition.
Iqaluit’s development, works and public safety committee was set to recommend that Town Council rescind its support in principle of the project if Qikiqtaaluk Corp. is not directly involved.
The Town’s disfavour could have killed the project.
But an appearance before council this week by the Qikiqtaaluk Corporation’s chief executive officer, Jerry Ell, cleared some of the confusion and got one town councillor on side.
Cintec-Tredi Inc., a partnership between a Quebec and a French company, wants to build an PCB incinerator at Iqaluit.
The incinerator would burn polychlorinated biphenyls contaminants from the Saglek site in Labrador, and possibly other PCBs shipped in from across Nunavut. The company is now waiting to hear if it will win a Department of National Defence contract to do that work.
Conditions for support
But support from the community and from the municipal government is crucial for the incinerator project to go ahead, said Philippe Guerin, a Cintec-Tredi business councillor.
“If the Town does not agree we’d have to withdraw,” he said.
On March 3, 1999, Iqaluit Town Council passed a motion to provide a letter of support in principle for the construction and operation of the Cintec waste incinerator.
Council’s support is contingent upon:
an independent environment assessment being completed;
a review of the storage and transportation of contaminated soils being completed;
provision of design drawings;
application and approval of a municipal development permit;
Waste from only Labrador, Northwest Territories and Nunavut be treated in the incinerator.
The council committee was prepared to recommend that council withdraw its support from the project if QC were not directly involved.
This week, Ell told Town council that QC will enter into a partnership with Cintec, should it win the contract.
Qikiqtaaluk, Ell said, will conduct public relations on the incinerator and will “provide support” when Cintec sets up its facility.
At this point, QC has only given its support to the project, said Barry Wilson, president of Nunasi Projects Inc., the main sub-contractor for the project.
QC part of PAIL consortium
If Cintec-Tredi wins the contract, then the Qikiqtaaluk Corp. would become a shareholder in the project, Wilson said.
Should Cintec win the contract, a new company would be formed. Pan Arctic Inuit Logistics (PAIL) would have a controlling interest in the new company.
PAIL is owned by aboriginal development corporations — including Qikiqtaaluk Corp. — in four Inuit land-claim settlement regions.
Nunasi Projects Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Nunasi Corp. would run the facility.
Through PAIL, Qikiqtaaluk Corp. and the other Inuit development corporations would become shareholders in the new company, Wilson said.
While questions have already been raised about public safety and environmental impact, Cintec is promoting the incinerator as an economic engine.
Treatment of the Labrador waste would take approximately 18 months and would create approximately 35 jobs.
Treating northern waste in the North
Cintec wants to treat the Labrador waste in the North so that the incinerator can later be used to treat waste from Nunavut’s DEW line sites and Resolution Island. The incinerator could also be used to treat municipal waste, Guerin said.
Iqaluit is one of only a few northern communities that has the people and infrastructure needed to build such a facility.
Cintec also argues that treating northern waste in the North makes economic sense and Guerin said this could be their strongest argument in their effort to win the contract.
“We’ll transfer a liability into an opportunity,” Guerin said.
The other option Guerin said is to ship the contaminants — and the jobs connected to them — south.
Wilson estimates the incinerator — which would run 24 hours a day, seven days a week — would create 50 to 70 direct jobs during the next two years. “Maybe five years if some of those other things (projects) go forward,” Wilson said.
Cintec documents also touts the proposal’s Inuit and local connections.
“Overall, we estimate that Inuit and local content will reach approximately 70 per cent of the value of our proposal,” contract documents state.
Cintec expects DND to announce the winner of the contract in July.
Opposition to project
But not everyone believes shipping hazardous waste to Iqaluit makes sense.
Town Counc. John Matthews voted against the motion to support the project in principle.
“Regardless of the studies, there’s always the chance of an error or a spill. In the court of public opinion I don’t believe this thing will fly,” Matthews said this week. And Matthews told Ell maybe Qikiqtaaluk should look for alternate sites.
And Counc. Lynda Gunn, who supports the project in principle, said the site could be set up 15 to 20 miles outside of town to “allay fears.”
One former Iqaluit resident, Lynn Peplinski, has written a letter to the editor of Nunatsiaq News opposing the proposal.
Based on her readings on PCBs, Peplinski argues it’s too risky to import more contaminants so close to town.
“We’ve got a problem in the North with contaminants already, why bring in more?” Peplinski said. Instead, she said incineration can be done in the South at less risk.
Peplinski said the possibility of PCBs escaping into the air during transportation or incineration overrides the economic benefits of the proposed incinerator.
“Why do it in the name of giving a few people jobs for a few years,” she said. “We need economic development opportunities in the North, but let’s do it in a way that’s environmentally responsible.”
Peplinski said she believes other Iqaluit residents will stand against the incinerator, if given the facts, and she plans to speak out against it when she returns to Iqaluit in August.
Environment versus jobs
Ell too said he originally had concerns about the environmental impact of an incinerator.
But he said “Unemployment is high here, and these are two competing forces. We have to look at the pros and cons.” He also said he will try to address local residents’ concerns.
Cintec-Tredi says its technology has already been proven and is safe. The company has done work for the Quebec government, and has done work in Alaska.
After the contaminants are treated with thermal energy, smoke from the incinerators’ chimney should be 99.9 per cent clear of PCBs, Guerin said.
Cintec-Tredi has not yet chosen a site for the proposed incinerator. Guerin said that will be done after the contract is awarded. If it wins the contract, Cintec-Tredi will then complete the environment assessment and other conditions of the Town’s support.
If the project goes ahead, contaminated debris from Saglek will be separated and shipped to Iqaluit in containers during two summers. The soil will then be stored and prepared for treatment. A camp will be set up in Iqaluit for the operations.