Stinking Nunavut dump sites need Ottawa’s money to meet Ottawa’s rules
We need $250 million, 10 years to clean up the mess, GN says
Nearly all Nunavut’s municipalities share a common struggle with their garbage dumps: they’re overloaded and below Canadian environmental standards.
That came as little surprise to most mayors and municipal officials Nov. 12 at the annual general meeting of the Nunavut Association of Municipalities.
Any municipal leaders who might have felt alone in their battle to comply with Canadian government standards no longer had reason to, when the territorial government described the extent of the Nunavut-wide problem.
Municipal waste sites in 21 of the territory’s 25 communities are only meeting the minimum requirement for best practices for garbage dumps as recommended by Environment Canada, said Roy Green, deputy minister at the Department of Community and Government Services.
And 16 of Nunavut’s 24 hamlets are in breach of their water licenses, “much of which stems from improper solid waste infrastructure,” Green said.
Nunavut’s only tax-based municipality, the City of Iqaluit, is not compliant with its water license either — which means 17 of 25 Nunavut communities are in breach of waste management standards.
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, which enforces water licenses, “has issued warnings to five hamlets, entailing potential fines of $100,000 for each day” the municipality is not compliant, Green reported.
None of the hamlets have actually been fined, however. They are dependent on the territorial government to fund their infrastructure, and Government of Nunavut, in turn, relies on the federal government for funding.
Under current funding arrangements “it will likely take 10 years or longer to construct new engineered solid waste management sites for all municipalities, due to the large capital investment,” Green said.
“The estimated cost to implement new solid waste infrastructure in 24 municipalities will cost close to $250 million,” he said.
Lacking the means to reach that goal, the GN is setting a short-term goal for municipalities.
Under Tom Sammurtok, minister of Community and Government Services, the territorial government is drafting a solid waste management strategy that will lay out basic guidelines all communities must follow.
That includes, firstly, segregation of hazardous materials, bulky metals and recyclable materials. Municipalities will also have to control access to dump sites, by enclosing them with gated fences.
Green said the government had already started mapping out plans for the solid waste management strategy in the first week of November, at the annual general meeting of Nunavut Association of Municipal Administrators.
Representatives of Green’s CGS department, AANDC, and the Nunavut Water Board met with NAMA’s board members — the senior administrative officers at all Nunavut’s communities — to hash out a draft agreement.
The strategy will be ready to implement by March 31, 2015, Green said.
Threats of fines from the federal government drew questions and a little resentment from some municipal officials.
“Because municipalities are not complying, there are going to be fines. That’s not fair, because we don’t have funding to fix up these sites properly,” said Paul Kaludjak, senior administrative officer for Whale Cove.
“I think it’s high time that the [federal] government and whoever the stakeholders are, come forward and help us fund these projects accordingly, so that we can comply,” he said.
Green replied that annual inspection reports by the federal government usually draw “letters of direction,” and associated warnings of fines when a municipality fails to submit a complete annual report, as required by the water license.
These normally include specific types of water samples.
“We have been working with the municipalities on a working group, to submit their annual reports, and to do the monitoring requirements under the water license,” Green said. “I think we’re making some progress in that area.”
Asked how serious the federal government is about charging fines for non-compliance, Green said he believes the risk of fines is minimal “if we demonstrate that we’re actively trying to resolve the issue.”
The federal government knows what the risks are, he added, “so I would think the letters of direction probably provide us with support to work with federal regulators.”
The GN hopes the federal government will also recognize that Nunavut is short on resources to fund waste management, and respond by contributing through the New Building Canada Plan and the gas tax fund agreement.