Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut August 14, 2014 - 6:55 am

Canadian forces mull dump-smoke risk in Op Nanook’s Iqaluit housing plans

Dumpcano firefighting work may require causeway closure

PETER VARGA
Smoke from Iqaluit’s smouldering dump, as shown in this Aug. 10 photo, sometimes heads in the direction of the West 40 industrial area. Canadian Armed Forces personnel had planned to set up camp in the area during Operation Nanook. (PHOTO BY PETER VARGA)
Smoke from Iqaluit’s smouldering dump, as shown in this Aug. 10 photo, sometimes heads in the direction of the West 40 industrial area. Canadian Armed Forces personnel had planned to set up camp in the area during Operation Nanook. (PHOTO BY PETER VARGA)

Canada’s department of National Defence has taken note that Iqaluit’s dump fire could complicate living conditions for 200 military personnel who will be staying in the city between Aug. 15 and Sept. 2, in connection with Operation Nanook 2014.

This year’s version of the yearly DND-led operation, touted by the department as “the largest sovereignty exercises in Canada’s North,” takes place primarily in Davis Strait, Frobisher Bay and Iqaluit.

Trouble is, personnel in Iqaluit are supposed to set up camp in areas “primarily located” in the West 40 area, according to a request for decision presented to city council, Aug. 12.

The area is known to be swamped by smoke from city’s dump fire more often than any other part of the city, thanks to prevailing winds.

The request, presented by the city’s director of planning and development, Mélodie Simard, asks permission to use an “additional location on the Road to Nowhere” as a back-up location, if others become unavailable or unusable.

That could be the case “if the fumes are too troublesome for their operation,” Simard told council.

“These areas the Department of National Defense wants to use would accommodate temporary sleeping, eating and sanitary facilities, along with equipment and vehicle storage,” the planning director said, “and would only be used for the duration of the exercise before being removed and the site remediated.”

The last troops will leave Sept. 2, and the first will arrive as early as Aug. 15, Iqaluit’s Joint Task Force North detachment commander, Major Pierre Maillet, told council.

Councillors refused to agree with the choice of the Road to Nowhere site, pointing out that it’s commonly used by residents for camping activities.

Coun. Kenny Bell noted that the site is located “directly across from our failed cemetery,” about 1.5 km from the nearest housing development.

“During the summer a lot of people go swimming and camping in that area,” he said.

Council agreed to find another alternate area with Iqaluit’s Joint Task Force detachment.

Plans to put out the dump fire are underway, and council, at the request of a citizen’s group called Iqalummiut for Action, promised to call on the Canadian Armed Forces to see if they can assist in the operation.

Part of the Iqaluit fire department’s dump-fire extinguishment plan calls for the possible closure of the city’s causeway, just south of the West 40 area and the dump.

The fire department will make that decision in consultation with Nunavut’s Protection Services division.

“We have a lot of hunters that use the causeway for boat-launching,” Ed Zebedee, director of protection services, told Nunatsiaq News in a recent interview. “Is it feasible, is it doable — do we have to do that.”

Areas around the causeway, Sylvia Grinnell Park and West 40 are particularly busy at the end of summer, and “that’s right when the city will be putting out the fire,” Zebedee said.

“We want to have the risks and the whole plan well thought-out,” he said. “Because any delay, once we start is going to cost a lot of money.”

The Iqaluit fire department’s dump-extinguishment operations will begin Aug. 27, at the earliest, and cost more than $3 million, according to fire chief Luc Grandmaison.

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