June 27, 2008

Pang perks up with near finish of make-do bridge

Temporary structure could bring end to water rations

CHRIS WINDEYER

Pangnirtung residents should be able to cross the Duval River by foot and vehicle by this weekend, the hamlet's chief administrative officer, Ron Mongeau, said this past Tuesday.

City crews were busy installing culverts that would be covered by rocks and gravel to a form a makeshift bridge, ending the need to ferry residents across the river by boat at high tide, Ron Mongeau said in an interview.

"We're hoping right now, if the weather cooperates and our equipment holds up, that we'll have that river road open possibly by Friday or Saturday," he said. "That might be a little optimistic but that's what we're aiming for."

Heavy rains and a torrent of melt-water earlier this month caused havoc in Pangnirtung, carving a new course for the Duval River and washing away the earth that supported two bridges connecting the town with its water supply, sewage treatment plant and some homes.

The flash flooding also caused cracks and sinkholes to appear near the river bed, worrying hamlet officials when they crept close to a row of government housing units.

But Mongeau said geotechnical experts flown in by the Government of Nunavut say the ground near the river is starting to stabilize.

"What we're seeing is the last elements of that [river] valley settling a little bit," Mongeau said.

But Mongeau says he won't know for sure until crews use ground-penetrating radar to scan what's under their feet.

Meanwhile, the hamlet finally stopped pumping raw sewage into the river after they connected a huge bladder and hose system to the sewage plant from across the river.

This picture shows some of the damage that raging floodwaters inflicted on the two bridges that span the Duval River in Pangnirtung.
(PHOTO COURTESY OF DAVID KILABUK)

Mongeau also expects to see a bigger water line extended across the river, so crews can fill the hamlet's water trucks in 10 minutes, instead of the current 35.

That would allow the hamlet to cancel a water-rationing system where each household is allowed only 500 litres of water a day.

Mongeau said the inconvenience of having to wait for high tide to cross the river is wearing on people who need to use the service.

Hamlet workers are starting to burn out from working as long as 14-hours.

But at the same time, "Everybody has pulled together," he said.

Getting the temporary bridge installed will be a big boost for morale, Mongeau said.

"Opening the river bridge will signal an end to the immediate crisis and a return to normality," he said.

On June 18, Paul Okalik, the premier, and Levinia Brown, the minister of community and government services, toured the affected area with Pang's mayor, Mosesie Qappik and announced $510,000 in aid.

The money will cover the cost of buying and flying in the hoses, bladder, and culverts as well as doing engineering assessments.

And the City of Iqaluit is offering help if Pangnirtung needs it. At a city council meeting this past Tuesday, Coun. Simon Nattaq asked what Iqaluit is doing to help.

Speaking in Inuktitut, Mayor Elisapee Sheutiapik said the GN is the lead agency for the response.

"[But] we are available if they need assistance," she said.