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Decontaminating dollars

Andrea Markey
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (July 18/05) - The ongoing clean-up of former DEW line sites has meant millions of dollars for Nunavut businesses.

Qikiqtaaluk Corporation is finishing the clean-up of the Resolution Island site this year, after seven years of work.

The Inuit-owned company was recently awarded the contract for both the camp construction and remediation of the FOX-C site between Qikiqtarjuaq and Clyde River, a deal worth more than $16 million.

Road construction and sea-lifting in the necessary equipment will take place this summer, in preparation for clean-up to begin as soon as the snow is gone next year, said Brian McLeod, chief executive officer of Qikiqtaaluk Corporation.

The site on Resolution Island was a much larger project than the Baffin one, requiring between 70 and 80 employees each season.

Buildings and radar systems were dismantled and the most heavily contaminated soil was shipped to an incineration plant in Quebec, he said.

"Ninety-five per cent of the employees are Inuk, coming from Iqaluit, Pangnirtung and Kimmirut," he said.

The Baffin site will require a camp of around 40 people, with a guaranteed 88 per cent Inuit-employment level, he said, noting that the site presents logistical challenges due to unpredictable weather.

Ships with supplies going in and ships carrying hazardous material out will need access to the area.

"But if the U.S. military could figure out how to get ships into the harbour 40 or 50 years ago, we can figure it out, too," McLeod said.

Workers are trained to operate heavy equipment and deal with hazardous materials, as well as cook, clean and maintain a camp.

The FOX-Main site near Hall Beach is in its third year of a five-year cleanup, said Jean-Bernard Charron, assistant to the project manager at Kudlik Construction.

Charron said buildings have been torn down and most of the contaminated soil is being treated on site.

"Nutrients are added to big drums of soil that are then turned continuously to clean it," he said.

Based-out of Hall Beach, the clean-up employs approximately 100 seasonal workers.

Eighty per cent of the workers are Inuit, with the majority coming from Hall Beach as well as some from Iglulik and Clyde River. A few southern workers from Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Quebec also work on the site.

Having the camp based in the community is a boost to the economy, said Martha Gibbons, the economic development officer for Hall Beach.

It not only helps the workers directly by supplying seasonal employment, it also assists Nunavut's artists in earning a living.

"Construction workers from out of town often buy carvings and tapestries from local artists," Gibbons said.

Located about 2 km from town, the clean-up of the site may also benefit the community by bringing in more tourists, she said.

Iqaluit-based Mikim Contracting was awarded the $4.5 million camp construction for the CAM-F DEW line site between Foxe Basin and Committee Bay. Biogenie S.R.D.C. Inc. of Quebec was awarded the $10.4 million clean-up for the CAM-F site.

An agreement signed in 1998 with the Department of National Defence committed the federal government to the clean-up of 15 former DEW line sites in Nunavut.

The sites are contaminated with heavy metals and fuel, and many may have PCB contamination.