The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Nunavut government to consider funding for plan to put out Iqaluit's 'dumpcano'

  • Print

IQALUIT, Nunavut - Government officials are to meet this week to consider a plan for putting out a dump fire that has been fouling the air in Nunavut's capital for more than two months.

The city of Iqaluit just doesn't have the $2.2 million it would take to quench the blaze and its nostril-searing smoke, said fire chief Luc Grandmaison.

"We're asking them (the territory) to help us with resources."

The fire began May 20 and has been dubbed the "dumpcano" — a term Grandmaison regrets having coined, because he feels it belittles the seriousness of the situation.

The combustion is centred somewhere deep within the massive pile of trash that is the Iqaluit city dump. The burning section — about the size of a football field and up to four storeys deep — is a smoky cauldron of untold numbers of household garbage bags.

There are no flames. But Grandmaison said the subsurface heat reaches up to 2,000 C.

The heart of the blaze is too deep for firehoses to reach. The pile of garbage is too unstable to attack with backhoes or other equipment. The best crews have been able to do is cut trenches through the garbage and isolate the burning section from the rest of the dump.

The fumes have at times closed schools and prompted health warnings. City council decided the fire couldn't be allowed to burn itself out and turned to a landfill expert from British Columbia to help.

Anthony Sperling has proposed building a large pond walled by dirt and garbage and filled with seawater. High-extension excavators would take load after load of burning waste and dunk it in the pool to extinguish it. The waste would then be drained, flattened and stored in a new area.

Water from the quenching pond would be pumped onto the burning section of the dump to quell the flames expected to leap up as shovels bit in.

The work would continue for weeks until the garbage pile was no more than five metres high. Specialized industrial firefighting crews would have to wear respirators and splash suits to protect themselves from contaminated water.

Sperling said the problem is that the Iqaluit dump, commissioned in 1995, was supposed to be open for five years. It's still in use, nearly 20 years later.

"It's been stacked higher into very steep slopes to make it last," said Sperling. "That's created conditions that make it very difficult now to extinguish it."

It's the dump's fourth fire since mid-December. In 2010, a blaze took six weeks to put out.

Iqaluit's situation isn't unique in Nunavut.

In 2001, Nunavut mayors pleaded with Ottawa for extra money to deal with dangerous dumps and lagoons. A 2004 report by the Conference Board of Canada made similar points, as did a 2010 consultant's study for Environment Canada.

A 2011 estimate put the cost of modernizing all 25 municipal dumps in Nunavut at between $320 million and $500 million.

Sperling's plan has been approved by Iqaluit city council.

The government of Nunavut and representatives from Environment Canada and Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development are to meet with city officials to discuss it.

— By Bob Weber in Edmonton

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Lindor Reynolds speaks candidly about life with terminal cancer

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Bright sunflowers lift their heads toward the south east skies in a  large sunflower field on Hwy 206 and #1 Thursday Standup photo. July 31,  2012 (Ruth Bonneville/Winnipeg Free Press)
  • Goslings enjoy Fridays warm weather to soak up some sun and gobble some grass on Heckla Ave in Winnipeg Friday afternoon- See Bryksa’s 30 DAY goose challenge - May 18, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you support Pimicikamak First Nation's protest against Manitoba Hydro?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google