Iqaluit $9.4M short for waste water treatment plant upgrades

The City of Iqaluit was presented with some options on how to upgrade its aging wastewater treatment plant Tuesday night, with the cheapest one coming it at $9.4 million over the city's budget. The upgrades must be done by 2018 or the city risks massive fines.

Water treatment must be brought up to federal standards by 2018 or city risks massive fines

Right now, Iqaluit only has a primary treatment system that filters out solid waste. The rest is discharged into Frobisher Bay. (CBC)

The City of Iqaluit is flushing out options on how to deal with its wastewater treatment plant, which has has been under scrutiny from the Federal Government for not meeting cleanliness standards.

On Tuesday night, consulting firm Stantec presented a few options to the city on how to upgrade the plant, the least expensive of which would cost $26.5 million dollars to install a secondary treatment system.

"I think we have no choice but to proceed with the secondary wastewater management system," said Iqaluit Mayor Mary Wilman. "We've known this was coming and we realize we need a proper treatment system. We've always wanted a proper one."

The proposed system by Stantec is called a Moving Bed Biofilm Reactor and comes with a $1.1 million per year operating cost. Other recommendations by the firm included upgrading the plant's septage receiving system, and preliminary and primary screening systems.

The city has only set aside $17.1 million for this project, which it based on the most up ­to­ date information it had before Tuesday's presentation. The money came from the federal gas tax and the Government of Nunavut's block funding.

Councillor Terry Dobbin was the first to address the $9.4 million shortfall at Tuesday's meeting, and given the city's financial struggles, he questioned whether the Federal Government will offer any help.

Councillor Joanasie Akumalik said there are some other avenues to explore for cash.

Iqaluit mayor Mary Wilman says that despite the high costs of plant upgrades, the City may ultimately have no choice but to proceed. (CBC)
"The regulatory bodies and the funding agencies is where I think we need to start looking," Akumalik said. "We have to sit down, talk about it and come up with a plan. Start communicating with the regulatory bodies and get them on board and let them know we're going through financial restraint."

Right now, the plant only has a primary treatment system that filters out solid waste and discharges the rest into Frobisher Bay. When the plant is offline, sewage is sent to a lagoon where it's filtered and cleaned over time.

The discharge from the lagoon isn't as clean as from the plant, and the city used to use this method before installing the primary system. But as the population grew, the lagoon couldn't handle the capacity.

The city says only in extreme cases where there's a blockage is raw sewage ever pumped into Frobisher Bay.

In 2013, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development tested the effluent discharge from the plant and determined it was technically toxic. AANDC told the city it would face possible fines of up to $100,000 a day and jail time for officials if it doesn't comply by the end of 2018.

The prospect of facing those penalties have since subsided since the city took steps towards compliance. Iqaluit's water license with the Nunavut Water Board expired in July 2012.


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