Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut July 16, 2014 - 7:59 am

Rankin Inlet looks at garbage sorting, gate for fire-prone dump

Stalled for years, Nunavut government’s replacement Rankin dump awaits liner, berm

PETER VARGA
Rankin Inlet’s most extensive landfill fire on record broke out June 24, and took 10 days to extinguish. The hamlet plans to install a gate at the site, and draft a garbage-sorting program. (FILE PHOTO)
Rankin Inlet’s most extensive landfill fire on record broke out June 24, and took 10 days to extinguish. The hamlet plans to install a gate at the site, and draft a garbage-sorting program. (FILE PHOTO)

Now that smoke from Rankin Inlet’s smouldering garbage landfill has settled, the hamlet promises to keep a closer eye on what goes into it and draft a garbage-sorting program.

“The plan is to put a gate in and try to see what’s coming in before it gets dumped in,” Justin Merritt, the hamlet’s interim senior administrative officer, told Nunatsiaq News.

Rankin Inlet’s landfill covers an area greater than three football fields in size, according to Merritt, and has taken all of the community’s waste since it first opened in the mid-1980s.

The hamlet has no formal plans right now to separate garbage by type, but the hamlet council promises to change that, Merritt said.

“They’re trying to prepare a plan to do that,” he said July 15.

The landfill gate and plans to sort garbage will be in place by the end of August, Merritt said.

High levels of heat caused by decomposing waste, mixed with loads of unknown materials — including flammables and explosive material —make dump fires a constant hazard in the community.

Although the hamlet’s fire department and public works have answered calls to put out fires at the dump before, none were as extensive as a series of blazes that broke out June 24 and took 10 days to extinguish.

“It spread everywhere,” Merritt said. A series of small fires broke out throughout more than half of the landfill, he said.

The hamlet’s firefighters and public works department extinguished the fires by smothering them with 259 truckloads of sand and gravel, said Joe Kaludjak, the director of public works.

The last flames went out July 4.

“The first four or five days were the worst,” Merritt said.

Thick smoke blew into the community June 25, causing poor visibility.

Nunavut’s health department warned residents to stay indoors and minimize their exposure to the smoke, and airlines cancelled flights that evening.

Residents heard a series of explosions in the early stages of the fire. The source of the explosions are “anybody’s guess,” Merritt said.

“It could have been anything. It could have been batteries, old cars, propane tanks, possibly,” he said.

“A lot of stuff has been there for ages. It’s an old dump.”

The fire came a little surprise to the department of public works, because the landfill “is always smouldering,” said Kaludjak.

“When we’re bulldozing the landfill to level it out a bit, every time we go too low, we could see fire coming out,” Kaludjak said.

Merritt said the smouldering Rankin dump gave off smoke “all winter, from time to time.”

“We’re not so sure, but it was probably burning all winter under the snow,” he said.

Once summer set in, “we had an awful lot of heat in June, and no rain,” Merritt said. “My guess is that it probably spread from there.”

Rankin Inlet’s fire was the second major landfill fire of the year reported in Nunavut. The first, in Iqaluit, started May 20 and continues to burn.

Unlike Iqaluit, where the fire is smouldering in a 10-metre-high pile, Rankin Inlet’s landfill has not exceeded capacity, and is level with the ground.

The hamlet’s landfill will take two to four years to reach capacity, according to Kaludjak.

The territorial government built a second landfill site in the community “10 to 12 years ago,” he said.

The new site can’t be used, however, because it isn’t lined with a barrier to keep liquid waste from leaching out of the site.

According to federal and territorial regulations, “every new dump needs to have a berm on it to contain whatever’s in the landfill,” Kaludjak said.

“It’s got fencing around it and everything, ready to go — except the berm,” Kaludjak said of the unused site. “That’s one of the reasons we haven’t used it.”

The Government of Nunavut’s department of Community and Government Services is responsible for the new site, Merritt said, adding that both the old and new sites are on commissioner’s land, owned by the territorial government.

“They have to make sure they go through all the environmental approvals,” he said. “So we’re just waiting for that.”

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(17) Comments:

#1. Posted by Trapper Don on July 16, 2014

In Wisconsin at my dump you are required to recycle, i look at the polar bear picture and can see that dump is a complete mess. trash that cannot be recycled is put into a trash compactor, the dump is gated and has attendants, it is open 2 day a week, its not rocket science. The attendants are retired county workers and the job it part time.

#2. Posted by LOL on July 16, 2014

someone probably started the fire,someone getting all jealous of iqaluits dump catching on fire lol and getting all the attention, and to top it off to try show how it should be done, but rankins dump is 5 times smaller than the dump here, they should know that so people stop commenting saying rankin can do so much better! LOL

#3. Posted by live in Rankin on July 16, 2014

it is not all out it is still smoldering under all that gravel…just walk by one can see and smell the smoke. 

...Unlike Iqaluit, where the fire is smoldering in a 10-metre-high pile, Rankin Inlet’s landfill has not exceeded capacity, and is level with the ground….

That is because it is in a 15 meter deep hole that we are filling up which is now at the top level with the perimeter rock around the dump. 

It is still a mess…yah it’s a garbage dump but wind has blown stuff around over the last 20 years with no clean up. now is the time to do a general clean up of the dump. all round the perimeter needs a good clean up. like a 1/4 mile radius. fix the fencing, start proper piles of materials for metals, wood materials.

Town needs to do a general clean up as well take all the old ATV frames, shacks, old cars all to the dump and put in the sorted piles. Every house has at least one or two ATV frames laying around it seems.

#4. Posted by La Dump on July 16, 2014

#3 is right, Rankin Inlet IS a dump. The whole thing.

#5. Posted by Prayer on July 16, 2014

I pray everyday Gov of Nunavut, CG&S don’t open the new dump they crazily built years ago.

1.  It’s just above our drinking water lake. Smoke and toxic ash will fall down into the drinking water lake whenever it catches on fire.

2.  Any leaks in the liner will flow toxins down hill direct into the towns drinking water. Dump sits above town water lake.

3.  If opened all the seagulls/ravens flying and eating from the dump, coffee talk is they will cause problems with air-planes and possible crashes?

4.  Winds will blow trash into our drinking water lake.

#6. Posted by ... on July 16, 2014

#2 This has to be one of the stupidest comments Ive read.

#5 I agree 100%

#7. Posted by robert on July 16, 2014

Unfortunately putting a gate at the dump will just result in people dumping outside the gate. Separating certain types of waste such as compostables and pop cans with their high deposits might work, but anything else would be economically unfeasible, no market, no place to sell the stuff

#8. Posted by PW on July 16, 2014

Where is Bu Lam (Director, Community Infrastructure)in all this. Why has this been allowed to get out of hand. Sounds like the “new” site is a lack of attention by government. Maybe its time to get someone else at the helm and get things done properly…how many more dump site fires do we need until real action is taking. Dont listen to “awaiting federal funding”, where are the application for those funding, where are the project monies to do this, where are the engineers that are suppose to know what they are doing in this???come on, if GN can not do their job,maybe give it back to the feds

#9. Posted by pah on July 16, 2014

#2 is so bored of his/her life that she/he is so jealous of everything even bringing up that rankin people were jealous of all the attention because of the dump fire in Iqaluit. why would rankiners be jealous of that? LOL what a mind of yours!

#10. Posted by LOL on July 16, 2014

# 2 is probaby jealous that rankins dumb fire lasted only 10 days.

#11. Posted by Lol on July 16, 2014

#2 thanks for the good laugh…..

#12. Posted by Jonas on July 16, 2014

#7 People don’t really worry about where the garbage goes in Rankin, because it just goes everywhere.

#13. Posted by LOL on July 17, 2014

#12 not only rankins garbage goes everywhere… why are people so this and that about rankin? rankins rankin. beautiful rankin inlet :D woooohooo proud to be from rankin smile

#14. Posted by where do you put your cig butts and where do you p on July 17, 2014

I don’t see why both sides are arguing about who has the biggest dump, as long as they put it where it should go, Rankin Inlet also has butt trays butt I had to shove my cig between garbage bags and pop cans, no wonder there’s so many butts on the ground around the entrances around RI you ppl use it to throw your garbage. Iqaluit is no different, ppl from all over canada and nunavut move here and…..etc…......... raspberry

#15. Posted by LOL on July 17, 2014

what does rankin have to do with cig butts? everyone smokes everywhere…not just rankin you see butts even in the cities…

#16. Posted by Raven on July 18, 2014

At least your municipality did something to put out the fire. Here in Iqaluit we wait to hire some expert from the south to decide how to put it out, and guess what? It will cost about 5 million to do it!

#17. Posted by Billy on July 18, 2014

#16 if there was someone in the North capable of devising an effective plan to put the fire out why didn’t it happen?

If things were done properly in Nunavut there would be no fires to begin with.

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