Transport Canada has contracted out contaminated landfill cleanups at the Resolute airport starting later this month, work that has been been neglected for decades.
Kudlik Construction has been awarded the cleanup contract for nearly $5.2 million.
The three landfill sites at the airport have existed since 1949. They were property of Transport Canada until the airport was transferred to the Government of the Northwest Territories in 1995 and subsequently to the Government of Nunavut in 1999.
Asked why the remediation took this long, Julie Leroux, a media relations adviser with Transport Canada, said the department prioritizes its remediation projects around the country based on the level of risk to human health and the environment.
Among the steps to be taken in Resolute will be removal of 300 m3 of hydrocarbon-contaminated soil, disposal of hazardous materials such as oil and lead paint, and capping non-hazardous waste with gravel in one of the landfills. It's an approach similar to what was done at the Iqaluit Airport landfill in 2017, according to Leroux.
She added that there has been no indication of any contaminated materials leaching into the nearby bay.
Resolute Mayor Tabitha Mullin said she's relieved that the sites are being addressed. While she didn't know of any issues created by the hazardous waste, she said the landfills were an eyesore for passersby, including those who have cabins beyond the airport, which is located less than 5 km from the community.
"(The landfills) have been in that situation for as long as I can remember. It's very nice to hear that they'll be cleaned up," said Mullin, who was understanding about the decades it has taken for the work to get started. "I know they (Transport Canada) have a lot of other priorities, a lot more contaminated sites that they were cleaning up. I'm just grateful it is going to happen here now too."
The contaminated materials in Resolute will be stored in appropriate containers and then barged to a hazardous waste disposal facility in the south, Leroux stated.
Although what's left behind at the Resolute Airport landfills should only be buried non-hazardous materials, the site will continue to be monitored, Leroux noted.
The work will be seasonal, kicking off on Aug. 14 and wrapping up by late September before beginning again in 2019. It's expected that 15-25 workers will be needed during the peak of the cleanup in 2019, and the majority of those employees will come from Nunavut, according to Leroux.
Some of the heavy equipment needed to do the work will arrive by sealift this summer, she said.