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Water treatment plant needs to be replaced

Utilidor system stretched to max and delaying development
Pelagie Papak, planning and lands administrator, presents at council Feb. 14. The hamlet is pursuing a subdivision in Area 5, but it may have to scale back some of the zoning to ensure the utilidor system can keep up. Stewart Burnett/NNSL photo

Rankin Inlet can grow only as far as its water and sewage system allows, and that’s already putting the brakes on plans in the near term.

“This is the number-one issue for the Hamlet of Rankin Inlet right now,” said Coun. Justin Merritt at the Feb. 14 council meeting.

He was referring to the need to replace the town’s water treatment plant, a project he estimates could cost the Government of Nunavut upward of $100 million.

Rankin Inlet’s utilidor system is already stretched to near-capacity. The oldest section of utilidor was constructed 45 years ago and renovated in 2013. Utilidor areas 2 and 3 are scheduled for replacement but senior administrative officer Darren Flynn says the rest of the system is in “reasonable shape.”

The hamlet is pursuing a new subdivision in Area 5, but it’s now looking at scaling back plans and focusing on mostly R1 development, instead of R2.

Lots zoned in R1 are either single dwellings or up to five units; lots zoned in R2 are in excess of five units. Often, R2 lots combine office fronts on the first level with several or dozens of residential apartments above.

Council is looking at making the majority of lots in the new Area 5 subdivision R1 and leaving a minority for R2, but no development will be able to take place on the R2 lots until a new water system in town can accommodate the increased strain. Council is also looking at encoding these utilidor concerns into the zoning bylaws.

“People need housing,” said Merritt about getting the R1 lots developed, even if the R2s have to wait. “We have to get it done.”

He stressed to Mayor Harry Towtongie to keep up pressure on the Government of Nunavut to make sure the water treatment plant gets replaced.

“It’s a big investment, but it needs to be done, and it needs to be done in the next 10 years,” said Merritt.

He went on to point out the emergency Rankin Inlet would be in if the utilidor system failed.

“Rankin is too quiet, too nice,” said Coun. Daniel Kowmuk, also stressing the need to put pressure on the territorial government.

A new water treatment plant would also likely bring in filtered water. Currently, Rankin Inlet’s drinking water is disinfected with chlorine, but not filtered.

This summer, work on the lift station at Johnson Cove will begin.

Ronnel Guilaran, communications specialist at Community and Government Services, said CGS is currently developing a business case for the replacement of Rankin Inlet’s water treatment plant, dependent on funding approvals.

“The design could begin by April 2023 and construction would begin during the summer of 2024,” stated Guilaran in an email.