North

Nunavut sets budget, timeline for aging fuel tank farm upgrades

The Nunavut government has a multi-million-dollar plan to upgrade the capacity of its aging fuel tanks, while bringing the farms up to federal environmental standards.

Community tank farms have been out of compliance with Environment Canada regulations for several years

The Nunavut government is years behind in upgrading its aging tank farms to meet environmental regulations. (Travis Burke/CBC)

The Nunavut government has a $17.75-million plan to upgrade tank farms across the territory which have been non-compliant with federal environmental regulations for several years.

Still more will receive environmental upgrades when the government addresses capacity issues in fast-growing Arctic communities. 

"It won't be cheap," Community and Government Services Minister Joe Savikataaq told the Nunavut legislature on March 2.

"It will be costly because, in some cases, there is a cleanup that has to be done too. We're lucky that we will combine this work with tank farm upgrades to mitigate the costs."

Environmental issues

In Nunavut's communities, the annual supply of fuel for heating homes and powering vehicles is brought North in the summer by sea and stored in familiar, white tanks throughout the year. 

In 2008, Storage Tank Systems for Petroleum Products and Allied Petroleum Products Regulations came into effect in Canada and the owners and operators of storage tank systems were given four years to make upgrades.

Once those four years were up, Environment Canada issued "environmental protection compliance orders" for Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet, Whale Cove and Sanikiluaq, according to a written response Savikataaq tabled in the legislature on March 15. 

At the request of Nunavut's Petroleum Products Division,  Environment Canada did not issue a binding compliance order — which would have given the territory only 180 days to address its issues or risk having the essential infrastructure shut down. 

In 2014, the government hired contractors to ensure Nunavut complies with the orders, but the delivery of construction materials to the four communities were delayed. 

"As of now, construction material is on site," he wrote. The "tentative date to completely address [the orders in the communities] is set as fall of 2016." 

Funding for upgrades

The government's Financial Management Board approved the $17.75-million price tag for upgrading the tank farms in 13 communities, which won't soon be upgraded to enhance capacity, as part of the next five-year capital plan. 

The rest of Nunavut's hamlets will address any environmental issues when they get their capacity upgrades, which are scheduled from now until the 2020/2021 fiscal year.

"It's cheaper to do it as a whole scope of work while they're doing other upgrades as opposed to doing it as a standalone project," Savikataaq said. 

Environment Canada is postponing any further enforcement action, the government said, and Savikataaq said the federal government department has been satisfied with Nunavut's progress so far.

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