A dirty job, but...
Young engineers oversee DEW line cleanup

Daniel MacIsaac
Northern News Services

TUKTOYAKTUK (Oct 01/99) - Many of us grumble when we have to wash the dishes or vacuum the carpet, but Ron Seto and Amy Dumoulin recently took on a cleanup project of a much more massive scale -- of the DEW line station in Tuktoyaktuk.

Seto works for a crown corporation called Defense Construction, and Dumoulin is an engineer with the Environmental Sciences Group attached to the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont.

Once their employers secured the $1.4 million tender from the Department of National Defence, the pair spent most of August and September overseeing the clean up of two landfill sites and dismantling the tank farm beside the still futuristic-looking but aging Tuk DEW line site.

And, no, they didn't exactly get their hands dirty. Workers from contractors like E. Gruben's Transport did the actual hauling and lifting -- but the southerners' roles were no less important.

"The landfills were filled with a mixture of scrap metal and domestic waste, barrel fragments and batteries," said Seto, "and we've had to sort out the debris from the soil and determine whether it was contaminated or not."

Dumoulin said the scope of the work in Tuk was smaller than at many of the other former DEW line sites -- with only about 2.3 cubic-metres of contaminated soil being removed, or, as she described, an amount roughly the size of a Volkswagen Beetle.

"We take soil samples along a grid pattern and look at the environmental concerns and how contaminants filter into the food chain," she said, "but the stuff we've taken out here poses no direct hazard to health."

Dumoulin said part of her job has involved community-awareness. She said she paid several trips to Mangilaluk School to speak to high school science classes to discuss her work, why she chose engineering as a profession and what courses are required to enter the field.

Both Dumoulin and Seto said their favourite part of environmental cleanup is the chance it gives them to travel across the country, meet the locals and see remote places like Avavik Park in the Yukon and Nicholson Peninsula out past Paulatuk.