QC begins more clean-up at Resolution Island

Baffin’s birthright development corporation is recruiting and training more hazardous materials workers this year.


Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT — Qikiqtaaluk Corp. has begun preparing for a fourth season of cleanup work at Resolution Island, site of a former U.S. military base contaminated by PCBs.

The Inuit-owned development corporation’s efforts this summer will be focused on completing access roads between four contamination “hot spots” and the company’s base of operations.

“Contamination may be all over the place, but your specific areas of concern are these smaller areas where the level of PCBs is higher than the surrounding area,” explains Michael Brown, QC’s director of environmental services.

PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, are cancer-causing substances and a potential environmental hazard. Handling and disposal of materials containing PCB concentrations higher than 50 parts per million is strictly governed by regulations in Canada’s Environmental Act.

Last year, hazardous waste crews collected barrels of liquid PCBs and electric transformers for storage in a temporary containment facility on the island. The materials are scheduled to be shipped south for disposal this summer.

“It’s out for contract right now, from all the PCB destruction facilities in the South,” Scott Mitchell, head of DIAND’s contaminated sites program, said.

There are two high-temperature incinerators in Canada capable of destroying PCBs, one in Quebec and one in Alberta.

No decision has yet been made as to how the excavated soils will eventually be disposed of. Excavation is expected to begin this year.

“We’re hoping we’ll be able to deal with it onsite eventually. We’re looking at various technologies at the moment,” said Bob Eaton, QC’s site safety officer and training coordinator.

Until then, the contaminated soil will be kept in specially constructed plywood and metal storage containers, Eaton said.

Approximately 80 people, divided into two crews of between 35 and 40 employees, are needed to carry out the summer’s planned remediation work.

“We’re going to rotate so that people will be in working for a couple of weeks, then out for a couple of weeks,” said Brown.

The military base at Resolution Island, which was abandoned by the Americans in 1972, has been closely studied by scientists from Queen’s University over the last five years.

In addition to PCBs, soil analysis shows heavy concentrations of certain heavy metal contaminants such as lead.

As in previous years, all new recruits will be given special training in the handling of hazardous-materials, in accordance with standards set by the national Occupational Safety and Health Association.

For trainees, that means getting acquainted with the navy blue “moon suits,” masks and impermeable boots that denote a hazardous materials worker.

“Once people have this 40-hour course, they’re welcome to work virtually anywhere in North America,” Brown said.

“It’s an excellent opportunity for people in this community to work on hazardous waste projects in the future.”

The final cost of this summer’s project has still to be negotiated with the federal Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, but Ottawa has budgeted $28 million for the entire cleanup.

“We’re looking at another three to four years to complete the project,” said Eaton.

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