Water Board Dampens Iqaluit's Burning Desire
IQALUIT, Nunavut, Canada, January 15, 2001 (ENS) - A northern Canadian town under assault from persistent organic pollutants has been told to drastically reduce burning at its overflowing dump.
The growing town of Iqaluit, home to 3,600 people and the capital of Canada's newest territory Nunavut, is struggling to deal with a mounting waste problem.
The persistent organic pollutants (POPs) formed when the town's wastes are burned are part of a larger problem.
Canada's far north is particularly vulnerable to the semi-volatile toxic chemicals commonly known as POPs.
After their release into the environment, POPs such as DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) and PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls) travel in multiple cycles of evaporation, transported by air and condensation.
Called the grasshopper effect, this process allows POPs to quickly travel great distances. In the cold climate of the Canadian Arctic, low evaporation rates trap POPs, allowing them to enter the food chain.
Scientific evidence shows levels of PCBs in the blood of some Inuit women are higher than Health Canada guidelines, and levels of certain POPs in breast milk have been found up to nine times higher than in women who live in southern Canada.
In a new three year licence handed out last week, the Nunavut Water Board outlined limitations to burning at the dump that could mean changes to the way garbage is collected in Iqaluit.
Iqaluitís director of engineering and public works Matthew Hough said that means Iqaluit may have to change the way it collects and disposes of garbage within the next six months.
"That basically is telling us to separate household waste," Hough said.
Hough said the restrictions on burning may be difficult if not impossible to comply with.
They would require either going through the garbage piece by piece at the dumpsite, which Hough said would be dangerous, or having residents and businesses separate their garbage before pickup.
The restriction would prohibit burning the plastic bags in which most people put their garbage for collection, he said.
The licence limits burning to times when the temperature is below 15 Celsius (59 Fahrenheit), and when the smoke plume is not blowing into town or endangering the fuel tank farm.
By this fall, the Town is expecting to have an incinerator operating, bringing an end to open burning. The water board licence requires the Town to create a contingency plan in case the incinerator is not in place as soon as planned.
In addition to the burn limitations, the licence calls for the Townís sewage treatment plant to be operational by August 1.
An inspection report on the sewage lagoon is required by Nov. 1.
"Although itís a very work-intensive licence, itís not necessarily anything we didnít expect," Hough said.
"We can work with this. Itís going to be a lot of work, but we can work with it."
Published in cooperation with Nunatsiaq News: http://www.nunatsiaq.com/nunavut/index.html