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INNOVATION under pressure CRYOFRONT: News and Views from the Far North

Innovation gone wrong - the SH#%T hits the trailer park in Yellowknife By Ken Johnson, NTWWA Director (From the memoirs of Jack Grainge entitled The Changing North. For many years, starting in the early 1950s, Jack worked with the Public Health Engineering Division of the Department of National Health and Welfare.)

Members of the crew took refuge in abandoned oil barrels that were lying on their sides near the shoreline. I stood on high ground about 50 metres away with my camera ready. Then the sludge blew. It rose about 35 metres high and the plume drifted about 40 metres downwind. It was then that I noticed that a slight breeze was blowing toward the nearby trailer park. The sludge made a layer of muck up to five centimetres thick. It stank horribly, a pigpen-like odour. The breeze was not strong enough to dilute the odour, but carried it gently toward the trailer park. The secretarytreasurer received a phone call from a lady in the trailer park, who asked, “How would you like to be served pooh for breakfast?� The sludge plume was high, the stink was high, but it was not a highpoint in my career. Over the years, the distance of the far-flung dung increased five-fold. One housewife claimed it landed on white shirts on her clothesline. The following year, a backhoe was available and hired to excavate a deep hole at the sewer outlet. The algae green colour returned to the water in the lake. Nevertheless a larger lagoon was still necessary. In all shallow lakes, dead algae sink to the

In 1964, the Niven Lake sewage lagoon in Yellowknife had lost its summertime algae-green colour for a wide area around the sewage inlet and become a drab, gray colour. Also, a 20-cm.- high island of sludge had developed near the sewage inlet. This part of the lake, only 200 metres from a trailer park, was beginning to stink. However, if a deep hole could be excavated to trap the sludge, the odour would be reduced. Unfortunately, there was no dragline in Yellowknife to excavate the hole. The public works crew and I put our heads together, but this turned out to be a case where a few heads were not better than one. One of the crew had previously been a hard-rock driller at Giant Mine. He claimed that he could dynamite a deep hole in the bottom of the lake. He would drill and set the charges by the end of the day. I did not sleep well that night. I kept wondering how an ex-hard-rock miner had induced me to dynamite soft sewage sludge. The next morning the crew gathered around the proposed blast site. I worried even more when I saw the ends of about 25 three-metrelong rods sticking up all over the island of sludge. I wondered how the shallow dynamite could create a deep hole. The driller maintained the dynamite would make a deep hole.


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Sludge is launched 35 metres into the air by an explosion at the Niven Lake lagoon in 1964.

bottom, eventually becoming a thick layer of muck and the lake becomes a slough. During the 1970s, the heavy flow of nutrient-rich sewage caused this to occur at the lower end of Niven Lake. If the muck were excavated and allowed to decompose for two years, it would have made fertile soil for gardens, valuable in Yellowknife.

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Winter 2012 CRYOFRONT Column  

Innovation gone wrong - the SH#%T hits the trailer park in Yellowknife

Winter 2012 CRYOFRONT Column  

Innovation gone wrong - the SH#%T hits the trailer park in Yellowknife