GN short-changes Iqaluit in contaminated land swap
"They've already used the land they want us to swap with. The airport is built on it"
A portion of land near Sylvia Grinnell Park that the Government of Nunavut wants to transfer to the City of Iqaluit is contaminated, an environmental assessment has revealed.
The 19.3-hectare parcel is part of a land-swap agreed upon between the municipality and the territorial government in a 2014 memorandum of understanding, when the GN needed city lands on which to build the new Iqaluit International Airport.
But a study shows that one of 13 surveyed land parcels at the site offered to the city are contaminated beyond an acceptable limit, Jesse Ajayi, a senior planner for Northern Futures Planning, said Feb. 8 at a meeting of the city’s planning and development committee of the whole.
Other parcels at the site are contaminated slightly more than is permissible, though those contaminants do not affect current use of the site, Ajayi said.
A few other land parcels are contaminated, but the levels are considered OK.
“That shows there’s a barrier to accepting the transfer of these parcels from the Government of Nunavut,” he said. “If the contamination is not resolved now, the liability will pass to the city. That’s a very real concern.”
The area near the territorial park is broken into 28 land parcels, which, as a cost-saving measure, have not been fully assessed.
This is despite a recommendation in preliminary surveys that the lots be fully assessed, said Ajayi, who suggested that those parcels now be fully assessed so that the extent of contamination on the land can be understood by the municipality.
He said further assessments would also be needed to calculate how much their clean-up would cost.
Ajayi suggested that either the city refuse to accept the land, or renegotiate its agreement with the GN so that the cost of remediation doesn’t fall to the city.
City councillors agreed.
“They’ve already used the land they want us to swap with. The airport is built on it,” Deputy Mayor Romeyn Stevenson said.
Coun. Terry Dobbin wants a contract for remediation at the site settled with the GN, instead of a new agreement.
An environmental assessment for the land parcels was first submitted to the city in 2015, but only finished and reviewed in December of 2017.
In July, the federal government said it would clean up a contaminated area, overlooking the Sylvia Grinnell River, that was a dump site used in part by the United States Air Force prior to 1970.