Iqaluit's makeshift dump a dumpcano in the making

Iqaluit's dump has been on fire for five weeks now, and the temporary landfill created to keep waste out of Iqaluit’s burning dump is ‘just a recipe to have this happen again,’ says deputy fire chief George Siegler.

Five weeks after dump caught fire, another pile of garbage is mounting with the same issues

Iqaluit Fire Chief Luc Grandmaison told Iqaluit CIty Council that making the dump fire burn hotter could make the fire burn out faster and he worries the temporary landfill could be facing the same issues. (CBC)

Another problem could be smouldering in Iqaluit’s garbage.

The temporary landfill created to keep fresh trash out of the city’s burning dump is already 1.5 metres tall.

Fire Chief Luc Grandmaison wanted compostable waste sorted out from the rest of the garbage, because organic waste is a heat source.

“That's not happening right now,” George Siegler, Iqaluit's deputy fire chief, told city council last night. “What's happening is all of our garbage is going back in there. And we're recreating this again. So this is just a recipe to have this happen again.”

Siegler says he wants to see construction materials like wood sorted out too.

The way garbage will be collected has not changed, but councillors and Grandmaison discussed the possibility of residents sorting their garbage at home before it arrives at the landfill.

Iqaluit currently has no formal household recycling or compost program. People who want to recycle can drop aluminum cans off at several locations in town, and liquor and beer bottles at another.

Iqaluit’s dump fire has been burning for five weeks now. City officials had estimated the fire could burn for two to three months. 

The day the fire started, council held an emergency meeting, where councillors voted to let it burn rather than put firefighters in danger or risk pumping water on the fire that would carry toxic sludge into Frobisher Bay. 

Three weeks later, council reversed that decision and passed a motion telling Grandmaison to explore ways to put out the fire. 

Make it burn hotter

Grandmaison presented that solution to council last night. 

“This fire can go away quicker if we accelerate the burning process,” he said.

The decision came from a group of government officials working on a solution to the fire.

The idea is to burn the waste down.

"It will produce less smoke, less particles in the air,” said Grandmaison.

Councillors wanted to know how that could be done.

Grandmaison says one way could be to take a pipe, similar to the metal pilings used to prop buildings on bedrock in the city, and puncture it with holes. The pipe would be drilled horizontally into the dump pile, in order to blow air into the base of the fire.

Grandmaison cautioned they could start the process as early as next week. 

They’re waiting for a landfill fire expert, Dr. Tony Sperling, to arrive at the end of the week and assess the situation.

Another option to extinguish the fire would be to scoop up garbage, cool it, dump it in water, then re-pile them, but Grandmaison says that even with the fire department working 14-hour days, that would take two months. 

He also said that at this point, dousing the flames with water is not an option, as the fire is burning 15 metres below the surface, and water would only reach the first three to five metres before seeping out. 

For now, Grandmaison says the fire is contained.

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