From the Editor: The Statistics of Sharing
Contaminated Water! Yet Another
Long-standing Debacle in Iqaluit
Searching for the Shelters of Stone
How to Loose a Husky Team
A New Home for the BAS Husky Memorial Bronze Statue
Historical and Climatic Prerequisites of the
Appearance of the Population of Sled Dogs of the
Shoreline of the Chukotka Peninsula
The Sledge Patrol documentary update
Major Virus Issues in Canada’s North and
Canine Parvovirus Infects Inuit Dogs in
Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, 1978
A Decade of Service: The Chinook Project’s
2015 Labrador Animal Wellness Clinic
Inuk’s release in North America!
Book Review: Games of Survival: Traditional
Inuit Games for Elementary Students
IMHO: The Presumption of Good Faith
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Airport Creek, Iqaluit, Nunavut. top: Midpoint sampling location near dog teams; bottom: Downstream
of midpoint sampling location. From: " Benthic Biomonitoring in Arctic Tundra Streams: A Community-
Based Approach in Iqaluit, Nunavut, Canada"; ARCTIC VOL. 64, NO. 1 (MARCH 2011 P. 59–72)
Courtesy of the Arctic Institute of North America
Yet Another Long Standing Debacle in Iqaluit
by Sue Hamilton
The headline of a July 6, 2015 Canadian Broadcasting Company’s website (CBCNews North) article announced: “Iqaluit's Airport Creek hazardous to people and sled dogs, say scientists”.
The scientist mentioned in the story, Andrew S. Medeiros, PhD., Assistant Professor, Department of Geography, York University in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, very kindly answered all my questions and gave his blessing to have the interview published here. His insight is crushing.
AM: As many people who have even visited Iqaluit have known for a very, very long time, Carney Creek (Airport Creek) has a legacy issue that has caused degradation of water quality. It is primarily from North 40 seepage and other legacy contamination leftover from the military presence in Iqaluit. It is made worse by urban and industrial waste that is often dumped into the river.
It is not a new problem, but all levels of government have dismissed it as 'not their problem/responsibility'. This is due to a 'polluter pays' legislative framework in the Canadian Environmental Protection Act…since government considers the pollution of this river 'untraceable', there is no push for any level of government to take responsibility for cleaning it up.
We continue to highlight this issue year after year (Our research group has been in local media highlighting this issue for 10 years now). In 2010 and 2011 our group published scathing scientific articles on the water quality of Airport Creek, and alerted several levels of government about how bad it actually was. These warnings fell on deaf ears, but our research efforts did not stop. We continue to sample the stream, which continues to get worse (for a variety of factors).
SH: The CBC story says you have been coming to Iqaluit since 2005. What drew you to suspect your project was needed?
AM: Our original research was prompted by local concerns over water quality in the Iqaluit area. We have worked closely with the Nunavut Research Institute in coming up with the methodology, sampling technique, and sampling of several lakes and rivers in the area to address those concerns.
SH: Or was it at the request of a City of Iqaluit or a Nunavut Government agency?
AM: The city has been fairly silent about this issue, although we keep trying. No government agency has any freshwater resource manager, planner, or any employee at all that has responsibility over freshwater (with the exception of municipal engineers for drinking water and waste water).
SH: At what point in your research was the water contamination identified?
AM: Terry Dick (Professor Emeritus, University of Manitoba) first discovered that fish in Airport Creek were contaminated with high concentrations of short and medium chained polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB's, a persistent organic pollutant). That research was conducted in 1999 and published in 2010. My study started in 2005 and the first paper published in 2011. Our subsequent paper is being written (an update on the health of the stream) and will likely come out in early 2016 (peer-reviewed scientific work goes through a very detailed review and is not a swift process).
SH: Can you tell if the contamination has stayed at the same level or gotten better or worse?
AM: Water quality has gotten much worse since our first publication in 2011.
SH: What have you identified as the source(s) of the contamination?
AM: North 40 seepage of heavy metals, PCBs, and hydrocarbons buried from the military presence in the 1950s-70s. The industrial and municipal waste that has been dumped into the river does not help!
SH: Is it all local or is it part of the big picture of circumpolar contamination from decades of pollution originating in Russia?
AM: The over streams and rivers in the area are not degraded, this is a local problem with Airport Creek.
SH: Is it possible to know if the source of this contamination has found its way into country food as well?
AM: Fish that spawn in and around the Airport Creek would highly be affected by the contamination. It is possible that fish caught near the mouth of the river will be affected, but this is a very difficult question to answer because fish swim (e.g., can spawn in the river, get contaminated, and get caught by a fishermen somewhere else).
SH: Have you examined and identified contaminants in the soil associated with this contaminated waterway?
AM: We have only tested the sediment in the river, we are not equipped to do soil surveys, although others have.
SH: From your perspective what has been the response of the City of Iqaluit and the Government of Nunavut?
AM: Both blame the federal government, the federal government indicates it is a territorial and municipal issue. Basically all three sides blame each other so no one does anything.
SH: What remediation can be done?
AM: Many things can be done, from a basic clean up of the industrial and urban waste, to a complete cleanup of North 40 and the buried contaminants in that area. It does not help that the city is mining for gravel in this area...
SH: How long would it take?
AM: Things move slowly in the north, but a cleanup of this river would not be particularly difficult or long. It would likely be costly as with everything else in the north.
SH: Do you know if there is any agency that has the authority to demand that remediation be initiated?
AM: Not that I know of, but we keep trying to find one that will.
SH: Aside from the obvious risk to dog teams, what has been the exposure to humans?
AM: This is a very long answer. Kids play in this water. It flows through town. There is a lot of exposure to this water. There are fish in this water. Those fish breed at the mouth of the river, and then swim out to the ocean. People could be eating those fish.
SH: Do you know of any epidemiological studies relating to this or other water contamination?
AM: We are asking this question to the department of Health but I have never come across one in the 10 years I have been working in Iqaluit.
SH: Might there be interest in a research project analyzing blood samples from the dogs picketed at this waterway, considering them sentinels of contamination?
AM: This is interesting, but complicated by what the dogs eat.
SH: Who has funded your project and to what Nunavut agency do you officially report your findings?
AM: Our research is funded by the Natural Science and Engineering Council of Canada, York University, and the Nunavut Research Institute (Nunavut Arctic College). Our findings are very widely reported, especially considering our first results came out 5 years ago.
SH: Have you published or are you planning to publish the results of your work in Iqaluit?
AM: Our work is published in scientific journals, has been reported on by Nunutsiaq News in the past, as well as the CBC. We have non-technical summaries that are sent to the HTO (Hunters and Trappers), city, and Government of Nunavut.
SH: What do you expect the outcome of your research will be?
AM: Our research on the local streams is part of my research program that examines Water Security for Northern Peoples. It fits together with a wider study of freshwater issues facing Nunavut communities in the future.
SH: What would you hope it would be?
AM: I hope that I irritate enough people in government to actually start thinking about freshwater management and policy. Nunavut is the only jurisdiction in Canada with no policy for freshwater!
SH: Thank you for your time. It is much appreciated!
AM: Not a problem, happy to discuss our research. I used to live in Iqaluit, so I try and do my part in working on important issues that actually will matter for people who call Nunavut home. Thanks. Andrew.
ED: I cannot help but recall that April 1, 2015 nasty-gram from the Iqaluit City Councillor who angrily lambasted me, “…Until you have actual facts please stop accusing the city of not caring and kindly stop emailing me until you have facts to support your claims of the city not caring…” (see “Paving Over Cultural Identity: status of Iqaluit’s Mile 40 asphalt plant project”) Apparently other examples of not caring extend to the Government of Nunavut as well as the Federal Government in Ottawa, including (according to an unnamed source) its current Nunavut representative in Parliament.