Iqaluit sewer lines overdue for massive overhaul: public works director
“It’s got to be done right for a change. Do it right, and do it right once.”
Iqaluit’s director of public works, Keith Couture, says the poor construction of long stretches of road and sewer lines are starting to show up — and that Iqaluit shouldn’t settle for anything less than complete replacement.
“It’s got to be done right for a change,” Couture told city council at an Engineering and Public Works Committee of the Whole meeting, May 20. “Do it right, and do it right once.”
The top items on director Keith Couture’s list include collapsing sewage lines in the Happy Valley neighbourhood and the crumbling Apex Road.
Couture, now entering his third year of work with the city, laid out the city’s best options for fixing those problems – funds permitting.
Constant problems with sewage lines in the Happy Valley neighbourhood date back at least as far as Couture’s arrival in Iqaluit in 2012.
“I’ve had many complaints about the system from rate-payers,” he said.
Problems centre around a stretch of a sewer line that has been repeatedly blocked by pipe collapses and debris.
At least two residents living along the lowest part of the line in Happy Valley have experienced repeated sewage back-ups into their homes.
Happy Valley resident Joel Fortier told council he racked up bills of $4,000 this year to unblock his sewer access line to the city, which froze up several times.
Fortier pointed to the faulty main line that feeds his property as the source of his problem. Another resident a few houses away experienced similar blockages, which required the installation of a holding tank on his property.
“To alleviate the problem completely, the entire main line has to be replaced in Happy Valley, at a cost exceeding $4 million,” Couture said.
“This line is old, the pipe’s had numerous failures. There are probably more C-clamps in the pipe than pipe, and it’s had numerous problems due to movement in permafrost,” he said.
Partial replacements of the line will only create more problems, he said, because the city has trouble finding connectors to fit new pipes onto old ones.
“Until you completely do it with the proper thickness of pipe, and a modern pipe, the system is just going to keep deteriorating and deteriorating,” Couture said.
Iqaluit’s sewer system has never been upgraded, he said. Moreover, much of the system was put in without any quality-controls.
“You’ve got to protect the money that your engineering department is putting in,” Couture said. “If you don’t protect it with a project manager, what’s the point?”
Couture estimated an overhaul to the entire system of sewer lines in Iqaluit would cost between $17 million and $30 million.
In view of the costs, and a shortage of funds to pay them, Coun. Terry Dobbin wondered when the federal government would follow through on its announcement earlier this year to forward $419 million for infrastructure projects in Nunavut communities.
“Our infrastructure is failing. That is badly-needed money,” he said.
The city’s road to Apex also calls for major investment. Spring snow melt and water run-off reveal the Apex Road’s key weakness, Couture said – poor drainage.
The road is a patchwork of mended and washed-out sections. As they do every spring, potholes have bloomed again.
“Many of you don’t realize [Apex Road] is over two kilometres long,” Couture told council. “That’s two kilometres of potholes.”
The city must elevate the road by at least half a foot, and allow water to run off to the shoulders, the director said. The best solution calls for a job amounting to about $2.5 million for the full stretch, he said.
Removing asphalt and converting to a gravel road would be “a step backwards for the city,” he said, adding that “the maintenance issues would be overwhelming, every time it rained.”
Couture recommended a “chip and tar” asphalt that will last three to four years, until the city can finance a more permanent solution.
“If this chip and tar were to happen, I’m hoping we can get it done for $600,000 or $700,000,” he said.
Council agreed. Couture’s next step is to carry out a feasibility study to confirm public works can follow through on the project.
The city’s culverts are also due for replacement. The department’s first priority is to clean them out, Couture said, adding that plans to replace them will factor into a 10-year plan Couture is drafting for the city.