Sabotage caused Nunavut RCMP building to sink: engineering firm
“It’s obvious it was purposefully done"
(Updated at 4:30 p.m.)
Shifting foundations under the RCMP headquarters’ new building in Iqaluit are the result of deliberate sabotage to a cooling system designed to hold it in place within permafrost, according to the firm that installed the system.
“It’s sabotage. That couldn’t happen on its own,” said John Jardine, co-president of Arctic Foundations of Canada Inc. “It’s obvious it was purposefully done.”
Opened less than three years ago, the building, with a striking V-shape, was touted as a state-of-the-art facility.
Among other innovations, the building features a thermosyphon-cooling system in the foundation which is designed to keep the ground solid and prevent the building from shifting or sinking.
But that is no longer working as it should in the building, commissioned, and maintained by Public Works and Government Services Canada.
A malfunction on the cooling system was first reported at the end of 2010.
On inspection, Arctic Foundations found “six to eight” months’ worth of data monitoring the coolant’s operation were missing and that two of 34 thermosyphons were not functioning.
The two sections of piping had been filled with approximately 45 gallons of water, which could only have been siphoned in with the aid of a pump, Jardine told Nunatsiaq News.
“The construction of the thermosyphons is no different than any other building we’ve done,” said Jardine, who estimated his firm has installed such systems in more than 10 other buildings throughout Iqaluit in recent years. Among these are garages, office buildings and a church.
“Somebody took the valve off the two syphons,” which were fastened in place by secure screws, he said.
Each contained liquid carbon dioxide, he said, which would have been boiled off on exposure and blown into the air as vapour because “all of that is released at high pressure.”
Following this, “somebody would have had to pump water in though the valve and filled the lines up with the water they pumped in.”
“They had to use a pump to pump it in high enough to have it run over and back down inside the radiator and then fill the line,” Jardine explained.
“It was a well-thought-out process. My guess is they had a 45-gallon drum of water and they pumped it in.”
Asked how difficult it would be to repair the trouble, Jardine said it depends whether the lines, now filled with water, are broken.
“There’s a good chance that they aren’t broken,” he said. “Essentially you’d have to get all the water out of them, assuming that they’re not frozen. So we would have to do it, probably late-summer.”
Trouble with the $18 million building has not affected RCMP operations in Iqaluit, said Manuel Amorim, director of contracting and assets for the RCMP’s Northwest division.
“There’s been a minor area affected with some structural shifting,” he said, “but it’s contained to one specific area.”
That area, according to Jardine, is “roughly” in the middle of the building, about “one-third of the way back” from the front. Changes in elevations of the floor and problems this causes are located in this area, he said, which happens to be where the main plumbing line runs through the building.
“The plumbing kind of collects in that spot,” Jardine said. “Obviously if the floor is sinking, you may have leakage from the plumbing in there.”
Speaking March 12 in the Nunavut legislature’s committee of the whole, Justice Minister Dan Shewchuk referred to an RCMP briefing on its building in Iqaluit.
Shewchuk said “interim measures have been taken to stabilize the facility.”
He also said the RCMP is working with Public Words and Services Canada, among other government agencies, to hire an independent consultant and engineering firm specializing in Arctic construction to provide recommendations on how to “permanently stabilize the foundation.”
Public Works and Government Services Canada, which remains responsible for issues related to the RCMP’s construction, has not yet responded to a request for information about the problems with the building.