Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut July 23, 2014 - 12:14 pm

Iqaluit council says yes to cheaper dumpcano fix

Rejigged proposal would extinguish smouldering heap for $2.2 million, with 15 per cent contingency added

PETER VARGA
The City of Iqaluit hopes to extinguish its smouldering landfill, seen here in mid-July, at a cost of $2.2 million. Council agreed to a new plan July 22, which costs less than half of the first proposal it submitted to the Government of Nunavut on July 7. (PHOTO BY PETER VARGA)
The City of Iqaluit hopes to extinguish its smouldering landfill, seen here in mid-July, at a cost of $2.2 million. Council agreed to a new plan July 22, which costs less than half of the first proposal it submitted to the Government of Nunavut on July 7. (PHOTO BY PETER VARGA)

Iqaluit took its first step towards extinguishing its two-month-old dump fire July 22 at half the $4.5 million cost initially estimated by a landfill fire expert.

City council passed a pair of motions at a regular meeting that evening, requesting the territorial and federal governments help the city put out the fire at an estimated cost of $2.2 million.

Council attached a contingency fee of 15 per cent to the sum, which brings the total to $2.6 million.

The city made its revised and initial fire-extinguishing plans in consultation with Dr. Tony Sperling, a landfill fire expert hired to help find a way to put out the blaze once and for all.

The new plan also promises to put out the fire in 30 days – almost half the time set out in the first proposal

“Council has asked me to extinguish the fire as I see fit,” Iqaluit fire chief Luc Grandmaison told council at the July 22 meeting. “I believe we should invest in this plan, and put it into action.”

Short on resources and personnel to put out the blaze, Iqaluit’s fire department decided, at first, to limit the flames to a single pile in the landfill, which is up to four storeys high and the about the size of a football field.

After persistent and potentially toxic smoke from smouldering pile raised concerns in the city, council ordered the fire department, June 11, to extinguish it “as soon as possible.”

The city needs the approval — and help — of the territorial government’s Department of Community and Government Services to put out the blaze.

With Sperling’s hired help, the city drafted and submitted its first extinguishment plan to CGS on July 4 and July 7. The department did not approve it, and asked for alternatives.

The first estimate of $4.5 million was “always considered to be too high,” John Hussey, the city’s chief administrative officer, told city council at the meeting.

The first plan predicted the fire could be extinguished in 50 days.

It called for a “quenching pond” to be built next to the landfill. Smouldering garbage would have been removed in portions from the smoking pile and doused in the pond, bit by bit.

Salt water was to be pumped from the bay and used to fill the pond.

The revised plan promises to extinguish the fire in just 30 days. Instead of gradually clawing away at the whole pile, Grandmaison said firefighters would “reduce it from seven or eight metres [in height] down to five.”

Working with hired industrial firefighters, city firefighters would then soak the gouged centre of the heap with salt water drawn from Frobisher Bay, “like a bathtub,” Grandmaison said.

“Instead of bringing everything down, by doing this measure — keeping it [the pile] there, and not moving it, we could save 20 days of operation,” he said. “That’s a reduction of 20 days, down to 30.”

The fire department’s initial fire-extinguishing plan also called for government to help fill shortages of equipment and manpower needed to put out the fire and stop the smoke.

“In total, 34 items were identified in order to implement the action plan,” Grandmaison told council.

A printed document to CGS listed them under three sections, which gave details on equipment, staff, and “other resources,” he said.

“CGS has only chosen to allocate five items,” he said, which include water pumps, hoses, nozzles and tanks, all designed to handle high volumes of water at high pressure.

Grandmaison said CGS could add other equipment and human resources after it reviews the new plan.

One major concern, he said, is how to contain water run-off from the dousing operation.

A holding pond on the site will collect run-off, which Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada would monitor for toxicity.

The federal government agency is willing to help the city decontaminate and treat the water before it is released into the waters of Frobisher Bay, the fire chief said.

“They’re telling us, whatever you do, you have to analyze the cost versus benefit,” Grandmaison said. “We must show due diligence.”

Completed with Sperling’s hired help, the city’s fire-extinguishing and waste-reduction plans have cost the city almost $68,000, Grandmaison said.

CGS will review the complete plan in a joint meeting with municipal, territorial, federal officials on Aug. 1.

Councillor Stephen Mansell tabled a motion to adopt the dump-dousing plan, and a second motion that “the Government of Nunavut and the federal government assist us to put out the landfill fire.”

All four councillors in attendance voted in favour.

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