October 5, 2001 Iqaluit wants a say in water licence case

Mayor wants issue settled once and for all



IQALUIT — Iqaluit’s mayor wants Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. and the federal government to use their upcoming court case on water licences to address a burning question.

The issue of burning garbage, that is.

John Matthews says city administrators want to know if water licences may restrict the city from the open burning of unsorted garbage at the Iqaluit dump.

Matthews said the confusion has dragged on for too long, and hopes the issue can be cleared up in court.

NTI is taking the federal government to court to find out who has power over water licences in the territory: the Nunavut Water Board or the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs.

The Nunavut Water Board, created under the Nunavut land claim agreement, issues water licences to regulate water use and waste disposal in the territory.

The agreement does not state that the DIAND minister’s signature is needed to validate water licences.

But DIAND takes the position — based on words contained in the old Northwest Territories Water Act — that no water licence is valid unless the minister signs it.

“Our concern is that even after that question is determined or decided by the federal court, the whole issue of burning still isn’t resolved,” Matthews said.

The mayor wants NTI and the water board to use the court case to answer two questions: who has power to issue water licences, and whether the water board has jurisdiction to control the burning of garbage.

In a letter to the Nunavut Water Board on Sept. 25, Matthews told the board it makes sense to deal with both issues at one proceeding so the matter won’t drag on any longer.

Matthews and many Iqaluit residents are eager to know if the city will be allowed to continue burning unsorted garbage.

When the water board issued Iqaluit’s latest water licence in January, it said the city had to stop its practice of burning plastics and other toxic materials.

But recently, the DIAND minister announced the water board had overstepped its powers by restricting burning.

Now the city wants a clearer answer about burning garbage.

“We’re no further ahead if they don’t address it. They have to address it at some point. It just makes sense to do both things together,” Matthews said.

The case is expected to be heard in court by December.

“It would be good to have the whole matter resolved, and especially if the federal court will look at the issue of burning,” Matthews said.

A bigger dump

The Nunavut Water Board says it won’t deal with any other issues regarding Iqaluit’s water licence until the court case has concluded.

Initially, the water board was planning to hold a public hearing in Iqaluit to respond to the city’s request to amend its licence to allow an expansion of the dump.

But in a letter to the mayor, the Nunavut Water Board informed him they’re adjourning the hearing.

But with or without the water board’s permission, the city is going ahead with its dump expansion plans.

The mayor said the dump is expected to be full to capacity fairly soon and the city has no choice but to make it bigger to deal with the overflow of garbage.

“We’re in a situation where we can’t do anything but go ahead and expand the landfill site,” he said. “There’s nothing else we can do. ”

He said the city is trying to work with the water board to resolve their debates over garbage issues.

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