Jail threats “a matter of course” at DIAND
“It just sometimes takes a stricter letter to make things happen”
The federal department of Indian and Northern Affairs will continue to send threatening letters to hamlets found violating the Nunavut Waters Act until all of Nunavut’s communities have sound sewage and waste facilities.
“As a matter of course, it’s our responsibility under the Waters Act to inspect and enforce provisions of the water license,” says Stephen Traynor, director of operations for DIAND in Iqaluit and acting regional director general.
DIAND sent multiple letters to Arctic Bay last year expressing concerns about an overflowing sewage lagoon contaminating the water supply. In August, Senior Administrative Officer Bill Harding received a letter threatening him with a $100,000 fine, or one year in jail, if the sewage lagoon was not repaired.
“It just sometimes takes a stricter letter to make things happen,” Traynor said.
In this case, the government of Nunavut got the message just in time. Arctic Bay’s overflowing sewage lagoon was repaired. DIAND inspectors visited the site and approved the repairs last weekend.
Harding says that Arctic Bay is now looking forward to a new sewage lagoon promised by the GN, which plans to do a site survey sometime in the next month, and should complete the new lagoon next summer.
Harding says that sewage lagoons continue to cause problems “in a number of communities,” largely due to a growing population.
Ownership issues also cause problems for the hamlets. Hamlets effectively operate and maintain the facilities, but without adequate funding or formal ownership.
Traynor calls this “a challenge” and says that DIAND has been working with the GN to identify who the owner is, and who has the capacity to address the problems, but that ultimately, it’s an issue for the territorial and municipal governments.
In the meantime, DIAND typically works with the hamlet, and usually the SAO who is on the ground and knows the operations, even though Traynor admits that the hamlets don’t necessarily have the capacity to deal with breakdowns.
“When the GN as a territory is receiving infrastructure money for sewage and water issues, you can see where one has the money and capacity while the other has to deal with the implementation,” Traynor says.
No one has served time for failing to meet water regulations, but for now, DIAND will continue with its annual inspections of each community and may send more letters.
DIAND shouldn’t be the only thing hamlets are worried about, Traynor says.
“Other enforcement agencies are also watching besides ourselves,” he says, adding that the federal department of the Environment, and the department of Fisheries and Oceans are also aware of the situation in case any of their regulations are violated.