Iqaluit awaits Nunavut approval for dump dousing plan
Soaking method would take 50 days and cost about $4.5 million
Putting out Iqaluit’s dump fire will now cost an estimated $4.5 million if the Government of Nunavut approves an updated business plan to extinguish it.
The city sent the plan to the GN’s Department of Community and Government Services July 7 for approval, Iqaluit fire chief Luc Grandmaison said
The proposed plan is largely based on an option put forward by landfill expert Dr. Tony Sperling, who was hired by the city to present options in the hope of finding a solution to 52-day-old mass of smoking refuse.
Smoldering garbage would be scooped out of the dump and, using special pumps, it would be cooled with hoses spraying seawater from the ocean.
Then the hunk of garbage would be dunked in a nearby quenching pond on the west side of the landfill, parallel to the road leading to the causeway.
According to the plan, the fire could be extinguished in about 50 days. The operation would last 12 to 14 hours a day and run seven days a week.
Grandmaison said at least two firefighters would have to stay on site 24 hours a day.
Iqaluit firefighters and volunteer firefighters would help in the operation.
“Approximately 13 firefighters would be needed per day to do this operation seven days a week,” Grandmaison said.
The preliminary $3.5 million cost estimate Sperling offered to council at a special meeting June 30 was a little premature, Grandmaison said. That estimate was done over the span of a weekend.
After Sperling stayed an extra few days in Iqaluit to reevaluate the fire, he revised his estimate to $4.59 million — $91,853 per day — but that number could grow if it takes longer to extinguish the fire.
The main difference between the recommendation Sperling gave to council June 30 and the plan submitted to CGS is that seawater would be used in the spraying and in the quenching pond, instead of fresh water.
Seawater is not a preferred option, Sperling explained to councillors June 30. He suggested fresh water would be better.
“Marine water is laden with salt. Salt is chlorine. And when you mix chlorine with organics, you’re increasing the risk of dioxins,” Sperling said then.
But the risk of dangerous chemicals being released in the air if the fire is left to smolder is greater than if salt water is added to the fire, Sperling told Nunatsiaq News.
“More important is to stop the smoldering. The best way to contain dioxin release is to put out smoldering fires ASAP and not to stir the dust around and let the particulates escape,” Sperling said.
The seawater being sprayed on the dump fire will help control that dust, which may contain hazardous chemicals, Sperling said.
And “it’s the volume of water needed,” Grandmaison explained. The City of Iqaluit simply doesn’t have the resources to pump enough fresh water into the fire and the quenching pond.
“It’s the same issue we started with. We cannot bring enough water trucks to the scene,” Grandmaison said.
The estimated 40-metre long, 15-metre in wide, and 1.5 to two-metres deep quenching pond would be refilled every one-and-a-half days.
That would require an input of roughly 50 million litres of seawater over the course of the project, Grandmaison said.
The soaked garbage would then be transferred to the vacant north section of the landfill. Dirt would also be layered with garbage to prevent another fire.
There would also be a decontamination area for about 14 pieces of heavy equipment exposed to seawater, otherwise the equipment would deteriorate from the salt.
However, some seawater will probably run into the ocean after being sprayed on the fire, Grandmaison admitted.
That’s a contentious issue, because chemicals leaching into the ocean might cause harm to fish in the area and that would likely violate the Fisheries Act.
“We will try everything to contain the water,” Grandmaison said.
Because the fire is burning at a temperature of 500 degrees Celsius, the heat will absorb most of the water, Grandmaison said.
The ashes in the fire will absorb the water as well. And the water will be collected in a berm built around the area.
“What cannot be absorbed or evaporated through the heat, then it can be collected at the end. But it doesn’t mean all the water runoff will find its way to the end area,” Grandmaison said.
“Basically we’re sitting on a bedrock so, probably there’s cracks and everything. So that’s the risk,” he said.
A big concern for Grandmaison, however, is the price tag for the project, and who would pay for it.
“We’re hoping the government can step in at one point to help us in regards to that,” Grandmaison said.
“The first thing — finance has to be secured for the project,” Grandmaison said.
Grandmaison doesn’t know when or if the project will be implemented. Community and Government Services has yet to approve it.