Slow process to clean contaminated islandsSite remediation on Padloping Island and Durban Island should be completed by the fall
Northern News Services
Published Monday, February 10, 2014
Site remediation on two contaminated islands near Qikiqtarjuaq should be completed by the fall, according an Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) official.
A fair amount of debris still remains on Padloping Island, roughly 75 kilometres from Qikiqtarjuaq. Site remediation on the island should be completed by the fall, according to Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada. - photo courtesy of William Audlakiak
The department and a pair of contractors – Biogenie SRDC Inc. and Sila Remediation Inc. – began cleaning up Padloping Island and Durban Island in 2012, clearing debris left behind from the 1950s and 1960s.
"The purpose of the FOX-E Durban Island and Padloping Island sites remediation project is to eliminate environmental hazards and return the sites to as near their original condition as possible while continuing to invest in Nunavut's economy," stated Natalie Plato, the department's director of lands and contaminated sites, in an e-mail.
"All non-hazardous and hazardous materials will be shipped to a southern facility for disposal. Contaminated soils, except soils that can be treated on site, will also be shipped south."
Furthermore, areas with excavated debris will be re-graded using clean gravel and any liquid waste that cannot be treated on site will be shipped south for disposal.
Durban Island, which is 36 square kilometres in size, was previously the site of an intermediate Distance Early Warning (DEW) line station from 1956 to 1963 and abandoned shortly after.
Padloping Island is the site of a previous Inuit settlement, dating back to the 19th century.
The United States Air Force operated a weather station there for a period of time during the Second World War and, in the mid-1960s, the population was moved to the Qikiqtarjuaq's current location, roughly 75 kilometres away.
The island is still visited fairly regularly for hunting and fishing purposes.
Plato said Biogenie has committed to Inuit employment levels of 80 per cent or more and roughly 60 Qikiqtarjuaq residents were employed during the 2013 field season.
William Audlakiak has taken part in the remediation work on Padloping Island for the past two years. He said he just signed up to go back this year, after Biogenie held a public consultation meeting in the community on Jan. 14.
His job was to remove old barrels, metal debris and other items using heavy equipment.
He also served as the island's polar bear monitor during the last few weeks.
"Sometimes labourers had to go 200 or 300 metres away from camp, so we needed a polar bear monitor who always carried a gun," he said.
He said the island was teeming with wildlife including geese, sandpipers, fox and polar bears.
The work on Padloping Island is harder to accomplish because of its location and the summer climate.
"It's only accessible by helicopter or sea, and we are faced with a short field season, so logistics may pose a challenge," Plato said.
"There will also be some challenges in terms of gathering scattered debris, because there are some steep slopes on Durban Island."
More tests will also be carried out to confirm there are no health risks at the sites, she added.