CGS upgrades Rankin Inlet sewage system

The Government of Nunavut has installed new equipment and safety measures at two of Rankin Inlet’s sewage lift stations after two spills in three months.

The Department of Community and Government Services has upgraded the Johnston Cove lift station by installing new pumps, valves, electrical wiring, fuel tank and emergency generator, an unnamed spokesperson said in an email.

It has also added mitigation measures to stop vandalism in the hamlet’s sewage system. The department’s spokesperson didn’t say what those measures are.

Rankin Inlet’s Johnston Cove lift station got a series of upgrades this summer, including a new fuel tank and emergency generator. (Photo by David Venn)

The first spill occurred in late July when a force main was damaged and caused a spill at Johnston Cove.

Then, on Sept. 14, the Department of Health warned Rankin Inlet residents to stay away from Nuvuk lift station when 331,000 litres of sewage spilled out.

The spill happened because pumps were clogged with rocks and so the lift station got backed up and overflowed, the CGS spokesperson said.

The sewage went into the designated overflow area, which is 700 metres from where sewage is normally released. Instead of being remediated, the spokesperson said it let the spill fix itself.

“The spill is being dispersed through tidal movement and winds,” CGS’s email says.

Rankin Inlet senior administrative officer Darren Flynn said the only difference from the sewage spilling out of Nuvuk lift station instead of making it to the sewage plant is that it wasn’t screened.

“The sewage itself would’ve still been there and it would’ve still discharged out into Prairie Bay. This here right now did discharge into Prairie Bay, just not where it would normally go out,” Flynn said.

Rankin Inlet Mayor Harry Towtongie said it’s something that the community has gotten used to.

“It’s nothing new. It always happens here — little leak here, little leak there. Everything is so old in the system — you can’t even blame anybody anymore, it’s so old,” Towtongie said.

David Venn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Nunatsiaq News