GN sends mechanic to assess sewage emergency in Pond Inlet
“We can make ends meet for now but it can’t go on for much longer”
A Government of Nunavut mechanic has arrived in Pond Inlet to examine two broken down sewage trucks, take inventory of what equipment is available in the hamlet garage and report back on what needs to be done to fix a local emergency.
Pond Inlet’s deputy mayor, Joshua Arreak, said Feb. 12 that he’s hopeful a solution can be found soon because providing waste services to a community of 1,500 people with only one sewage truck is unsustainable.
“We can make ends meet for now, but it can’t go on for much longer,” Arreak said from the hamlet office. “We are full Canadian citizens. We need help. We pay taxes too.”
After Christmas, the hamlet started experiencing mechanical problems with its three sewage trucks, which pump sewage out of waste tanks at businesses and residences in town.
The hamlet has been advertising for a certified mechanic for months, but has so far been unable to fill the job, Arreak said.
They have a few apprentice mechanics on staff, he said, but they need a local certified mechanic to supervise their apprenticeship for them to become fully certified themselves — or they need to leave the community to apprentice elsewhere.
So the GN’s Department of Community and Government Services sent a mechanic to Pond Inlet Feb. 11. He arrived last night, Arreak said.
An email from CGS communications to Nunatsiaq News Feb. 11 said GN maintenance personnel are now “assessing the repairs and equipment necessary to repair the sewage pump and get trucks back in operation as quickly as possible.
“CGS, with the assistance of the Department of Health, are also working with the hamlet to address any health concerns related to sewage overflow.”
Sewage in the pump-out area, about a half-kilometre outside the community, has overflowed and frozen to the ground.
At a community meeting Feb. 10, more than 50 residents said they were having serious problems with their water and sewage, Arreak said.
When sewage tanks are full, the water automatically shuts off so many homes are currently without water, he explained.
“We can’t wash our hands at home if our sewer tanks are full,” said Arreak. “It’s like the 1960s here.”
He said some people are boiling ice and snow to wash their hands and using iceberg chunks for drinking water.
Once the GN mechanic has had an opportunity to fully assess the local situation and determine what is immediately needed, he will submit a report to the hamlet, Arreak said.
If the trucks can’t be fixed locally, the GN may be required to fly up at least one if not two sewage trucks, he said, but at this point, no one is certain what will unfold or when.
The Pond Inlet hamlet council meets tonight for its regular meeting. Councillors will likely learn more details and discuss next steps at that time, Arreak said.
Meantime, residents are still advised to conserve water as best they can.
And the hamlet will continue to advertise for a full-time maintenance mechanic in the hope of filling that position as soon as possible.