• The metal garbage dump near Sylvia Grinnell River leeches petrochemicals, pesticides, and lead into its surroundings. (Photo: Transport Canada)

After decades, a sprawling pile of rusting vehicles, oil drums, and scrap metal will finally be removed from Iqaluit. Transport Canada has approved $5.4-million dollars for local company Kudlik Construction Ltd. for the removal of the toxic dumpsite and the restoration of the landscape.

“The area is contaminated,” says Madeleine Redfern, Mayor of Iqaluit. “Without a doubt the community members have been very keen to see all of these historical sites be remediated.”

The site is of particular importance as it lies next to the Sylvia Grinnell River, and lead, pesticides, and petrochemicals have leeched into the surroundings—hazardous for communities that often live off the land. “It’s not good for the environment, the food that we eat, and the water that we potentially want to drink,” says Redfern.

The pile of rusting metals was first laid to waste by the United States Air Force in the 1950s, as was the standard practice of the time. The military base was abandoned in 1963, and their remaining rubbish was bulldozed over a cliff near the mouth of the river. The area was then used as a general community landfill for the next decade.

Redfern says that responsible garbage removal has been a problem for many northern communities, and the metal dump near Sylvia Grinnell River is just one of several waste sites around Iqaluit. “It’s good to see progress being made, and it would be good to see other sites also being slated in the future for remediation,” says Redfern.

Both waste materials and contaminated soils are anticipated to be disposed of before the winter, and after removal, the area will be tested for contaminants for the next three years. Work will also include the redirection of water flows away from the dump site, and the area will hopefully be clean enough to be used for urban development.

“We take our environmental responsibility seriously,” says Claire Carriere, Regional Director for Transport Canada. “We’ve been committed to managing the contaminations as they occur.”