Issuu on Google+

Protecting Our Water – 60 Years of Service 60th Annual WCWWA Conference and Trade Show September 23 – 26, 2008 Delta Regina Hotel Regina, Saskatchewan

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE PAST 60 YEARS OF NORTHERN WATER AND WASTE Ken Johnson Earth Tech Canada ABSTRACT Over the course of the past sixty years water supply and waste treatment in Canada has changed dramatically, however the most dramatic changes have occurred in the northern regions of Canada. Sixty years ago much of northern Canada, particularly the smaller communities, were still based upon a subsistence economy and not a wage economy, therefore the infrastructure for water and sewer was essentially non existent. A select few communities, such as Dawson City, Yukon and Yellowknife, NWT had infrastructure in place as a result of the mining boom in each of these communities. The water and waste practices in the early days of small northern communities were very simple. Water was brought in by hand, from the nearest water source, "outhouses" were used for sewage waste, grey water was dumped adjacent to the houses, and garbage was burned in individual barrels near each household. One of the most significant infrastructure milestones in decade following World War 2 was the development of the community of Inuvik and its above ground piped water and sewer system, which was initiated by the chronic flooding and limited capacity of the nearby community of Aklavik. In 1957, John Diefenbaker's once-famous "northern vision" policy inspired the nation, and advanced further initiatives in northern infrastructure. Water and waste infrastructure in northern communities continued to make incremental improvements in the 1960's and 1970's as the subsistence lifestyles continued to decline, and more people moved to permanent settlements. Water and sewer tanks were becoming more common, along with indoor plumbing, but these were still limited, and there remained a significant need for engineered water supply and wastewater disposal systems. One of the most significant policy decisions concerning water supply infrastructure occurred in the mid-1980's with the recognition that intestinal disease could be correlated to water use. As a result, a policy was put in place that water supply infrastructure would be required to deliver a minimum of 90 L/c/d in each individual in a community. This policy initiated a concerted effort to provide indoor plumbing to each household, and phased out the use of honey bags for sewage disposal.


Protecting Our Water – 60 Years of Service 60th Annual WCWWA Conference and Trade Show September 23 – 26, 2008 Delta Regina Hotel Regina, Saskatchewan

The turn of the 20th century in the north has brought regulatory demands into the forefront of community infrastructure, for the better and worse of northern communities. Continuing incremental improvements in water and waste infrastructure as a result of regulatory demands have benefited communities. On the other hand, regulatory scrutiny has placed many communities in positions where they have neither the financial nor human resources to address the regulatory demands. BEFORE 1948 Northern Canada has remained first and foremost the homeland for aboriginal peoples and a pristine environment. Attachment to the land and dependence on local resources for physical and spiritual sustenance are deeply rooted characteristics of the aboriginal cultural heritage. Each of the aboriginal groups identifies with a traditional territory, shaped by thousands of years of continuous occupation. The land mass itself is immense, covering almost 45% of Canada's land mass that stretches 4500 kilometres along the 60th parallel and 2800 kilometres north from the 60th parallel to the edge of the Ellesmere Island, which is just 800 kilometres south of the north pole. Until the 1800's and into the early the 1900's, the economy was based solely on traditional activities of a nomadic lifestyle following an annual cycle set by the weather and the wildlife. This subsistence economy began to shift with the advent of whaling activities in the eastern Arctic, and the expansion of the fur trade into the North, making cash and trade goods important commodities for the aboriginal population. The shift continued with the establishment of permanent communities first by traders, and then missionaries; ultimately government institutions established a presence in the communities. In the mid 1940's the citizens of Yellowknife and Aklavik installed surface water distribution systems to supply water to their houses during the summer. This was luxury for them, for the rest of the year they had to haul or carry water to their homes, and for rest of the communities of the Northwest Territories even summer only piped water system was a "pipe dream". In most of the communities, the people threw waste water on the ground near their doorway, and discarded toilet water and garbage a distance away to be disposed of by gull, raven and scavenging dogs. In a few larger communities toilet waste and garbage were hauled to isolated places nearby. Such were water, sewage and garbage serving in the Northwest Territories 60 years ago (from the Changing North by Jack Grainge, 1999).


Protecting Our Water – 60 Years of Service 60th Annual WCWWA Conference and Trade Show September 23 – 26, 2008 Delta Regina Hotel Regina, Saskatchewan

DAWSON CITY INFRASTRUCTURE One community was the exception to the rule regarding modern water and sewer infrastructure. Dawson City, Yukon was the largest city west of Winnipeg at the turn of the 19th century, and in spite of its extreme isolation had many amenities, including a piped water and sewer system. The engineering and construction resources for this infrastructure may be attributed to the placer mining resources in the community at the time. Dawson was in fact building extraordinary hydraulic projects as the need for water was driven by the placer mining activity. The date of construction of the first components of the Dawson City water and sewer system is not known precisely, however, it has been recorded that Dawson had a water and sewer system in operation as early as 1904. A description of the system operation in 1911 states that "only three or four houses in Dawson were equipped with year-round running water. To prevent their freezing in winter, the water pipes had to be linked to parallel pipes of live steam which must be kept constantly hot. In addition, the water must be kept moving through the pipes continually and thence through an insulated outlet all the way to the river." The original pipe installations were wood stave construction, and this piping continued to be used until the 1970's (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Wood Stave Piping Replacement in Dawson City Yukon (Circa 1970) INUVIK INFRASTRUCTURE One of the most significant infrastructure milestones in decade following World War 2 was the development of the community of Inuvik and its above ground piped water and sewer system, which was initiated by the chronic flooding and limited capacity of the nearby community of Aklavik. In 1957, John Diefenbaker's once-famous "northern vision" policy inspired the nation, and advanced further initiatives in northern infrastructure.


Protecting Our Water – 60 Years of Service 60th Annual WCWWA Conference and Trade Show September 23 – 26, 2008 Delta Regina Hotel Regina, Saskatchewan

In 1953, federal government survey teams fanned out across the Mackenzie Delta looking for a new spot on which to build the settlement that would replace Aklavik. They narrowed the choice to six on the east side and six on the west side of the delta. In November 1954 they picked East Three on the East Channel of the Mackenzie Delta, about 120 kilometres south of the Arctic Ocean. The large, flat area had a navigable waterway, room for expansion and wasn't subject to flooding each spring. Construction of Inuvik began in 1955 and federal officials expected the town to be built by 1961 or 1962. It was the first time in Canada that a community would be built from scratch, giving new meaning to the term "government town." Building on permafrost proved to challenge engineers and architects. They expected to find a metre of permafrost, but discovered that Inuvik sits on 350 metres of ground that is frozen year round. To prevent heat from warm buildings thawing the permafrost and causing them to sink, most structures sit on pilings drilled five metres into the ground with about half to one metre of space between the ground and the bottom of the building. Inuvik's utilidor was originally constructed in one single enclosed conduit supported on wood piles; the utilidor included a dedicated pipe carrying high temperature hot water for buildings and freeze protection of the water and sewer mains (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: Inuvik Utilidor System (Circa 1960)


Protecting Our Water – 60 Years of Service 60th Annual WCWWA Conference and Trade Show September 23 – 26, 2008 Delta Regina Hotel Regina, Saskatchewan

INCREMENTAL IMPROVEMENTS The water and waste practices in the early days of small northern communities were very simple. Water was brought in by hand, from the nearest water source, "outhouses" were used for sewage waste, grey water was dumped adjacent to the houses, and garbage was burned in individual barrels near each household. Water supply advanced to the use of summer water points during the warmer months instead of bringing water by hand from a lake or stream (see Figure 3).

Figure 3: Summer Water Point In Rae Lakes, NWT Water and waste infrastructure in northern communities continued to make incremental improvements in the 1960's and 1970's as the subsistence lifestyles continued to decline, and more people moved to permanent settlements. Water and sewer tanks were becoming more common, along with indoor plumbing, but these were still limited. Newer homes were equipped with wastewater holding tanks located on or beneath the floor of the house into which drained household waste from kitchen sinks, laundry, bathroom and toilets would drain by gravity. These tanks were normally larger than the water storage tanks, with a minimum tank size of 1200 litres.. Trucked delivery for water and sewer was the standard level of service in all but a few communities. A handful of larger communities started to develop piped systems, and this started the process of advancing water and sewer technology specific to cold region conditions with the application of shallow bury, insulated pipes and recirculating water systems (see Figure 4).


Protecting Our Water – 60 Years of Service 60th Annual WCWWA Conference and Trade Show September 23 – 26, 2008 Delta Regina Hotel Regina, Saskatchewan

Figure 4: Insulated Water and Sewer System in Rankin Inlet, Nunuvut (Circa 1980) One of the most significant policy decisions concerning water supply infrastructure occurred in the mid-1980's with the recognition that intestinal disease could be correlated to water use. As a result, a policy was put in place that water supply infrastructure would be required to deliver a minimum of 90 L/c/d in each individual in a community. This policy initiated a concerted effort to provide indoor plumbing to each household, and phased out the use of honey bags for sewage disposal. Keeping up with the ever increasing water demand were engineered water supply and sewage treatment facilities. Water is an abundant resource in the north except for the fact it may remain frozen for over 6 months of the year. Access to a year round supply of water was a significant problem across the north which engineers solved by building large reservoirs with enough depth so the water would not completely freeze, and enough volume to accommodate what could be a nearly 2 metres of ice on the surface. The reservoirs were constructed of earth and lined with impermeable materials. Pumping systems adjacent to the reservoir fed truck fill points for distribution to the residents; chlorination equipment was provided as part of the truck fill station infrastructure. Sewage treatment and disposal followed suite with water supply, and sewage lagoons became the technology of choice because of low cost and ease of operation and maintenance. The application of mechanical sewage was very limited, and in fact the only one community, namely, Carmacks, Yukon had a mechanical treatment system until the 1990's.


Protecting Our Water – 60 Years of Service 60th Annual WCWWA Conference and Trade Show September 23 – 26, 2008 Delta Regina Hotel Regina, Saskatchewan

THE FUTURE OF NORTHERN WATER AND SEWER The turn of the 20th century in the north has brought regulatory demands into the forefront of community infrastructure, for the better and worse of northern communities. Continuing incremental improvements in water and waste infrastructure as a result of regulatory demands have benefited communities. On the other hand, regulatory scrutiny has placed many communities in positions where they have neither the financial nor human resources to address the regulatory demands. Mechanical systems are becoming more common for water treatment, as senior governments work to meet national guidelines for drinking water quality. The continuing success of mechanical systems, particularly in small communities remains a function of the technical assistance provided by the senior levels of government. Small communities have limited financial and human resources for the operation and maintenance of complex water treatment systems. Lagoon systems remain the most common form of sewage treatment, in spite of demands for more sophisticated technologies. Improving upon the performance of lagoons is occurring with the application of wetlands for tertiary treatment. The key elements with the future of northern water and sewer are "appropriate technology", applied in a "northern context", and scheduled in an "incremental" timeframe.


A Brief History of the Past 60 Years of Northern Water and Waste