Gwich'in Tribal Council calls for cancellation of Inuvik soil treatment facility approval
The Gwich'in Tribal Council is asking the courts to overturn an approval the Gwich'in Land and Water Board recently gave for the soil treatment facility in Inuvik.
The facility is operated by KBL Environmental, a waste management company that does work for Imperial Oil at Norman Wells, Northwest Territories diamond mines and the territorial government. It's where KBL stores and treats soil contaminated with oil and fuel from cleanup jobs it does in the region.
The Alberta-based company got a licence to operate the soil treatment facility in 2017, but according to the Tribal Council's court filing, the facility did not go into operation until late 2021. When KBL applied to renew the licence last year, the Gwich'in Tribal Council (GTC) wrote to the land and water board, saying it had concerns about KBL's compliance with its licence. It urged the board to hold a public hearing on KBL's renewal application.
The land and water board asked the territorial department of Environment and Natural Resources to inspect the facility. The inspector found a number of violations, including that none of the soil disposed of at the facility had been chemically analyzed before being accepted, a requirement of the water licence. The site was not fenced to keep wildlife out. It was littered with garbage. It was also still being operated even though its water licence had expired a month earlier.
But the board refused the GTC's request for a public hearing. It said KBL had addressed the deficiencies noted by the inspector, that the project was screened when KBL applied for the initial licence in 2017 and at that time the board found the project posed no significant environmental risks and was not a major public concern.
It also said there were only two organizations that commented on the renewal application and a hearing would be time-consuming and costly.
On Nov. 18, it renewed KBL's water licence.
In its court filing, the Tribal Council says a public hearing should have been held because of KBL's "significant non-compliance" with the conditions of its water licence. It argues that the land and water board did not meet the requirement of its duty to consult, and failed to consider the impact the facility will have on adjacent lands protected by the Gwich'in Comprehensive Land Claims Agreement.
Both KBL Environmental and the Gwich'in Land and Water Board are named in the request for a judicial review. Neither have responded to the Gwich'in Tribal Council's request for a review.
The case is in Northwest Territories Supreme Court Friday.