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Junk outside hotel may contain hazardous waste

Barrels labeled as containing hazardous chemicals and materials tagged for shipment to Snap Lake Mine sit on the lot in front of Chateau Nova on Highway 3. NNSL file photo.

Fuel drums scattered outside Yellowknife's newest hotel contain potentially hazardous chemicals but it remains unclear how long they will remain there or who will do something about them.

As of Monday, sp read around outside the Chateau Nova hotel site, mere metres from a walking trail and Niven Lake, were at least seven barrels that, at one time at least, contained hazardous materials.

Some of the red drums were labeled polymethylene polyphenyl isocyanate, a chemical used to make polyurethane foam. The label states the chemical is suspected of causing cancer.

Other barrels were marked as non-zinc, anti-wear hydraulic oil. The label on those barrels warns to avoid contact with eyes, skin and clothing.

One of the barrels, which bore a sticker reading “HyDurance AW NZ fluid 32,” a brand of hydraulic oil, was full of liquid and uncapped.

“I would not store barrels like that there, I think they're way too close to the water course,” said Bryan Manson, a retired military engineer who lives in the neighbouring Niven Lake subdivision and walks by the lot almost every day.

Manson is one of a number of residents grumbling about building materials and junk that have been left exposed to the elements on the site off 48 Street since the construction of Chateau Nova began in 2015.

The lot is not fenced off and there are no apparent signs warning the public to keep away.

Barrels labeled as containing hazardous chemicals and materials tagged for shipment to Snap Lake Mine sit on the lot in front of Chateau Nova on Highway 3. Sidney Cohen/NNSL photo.
Barrels labeled as containing hazardous chemicals and materials tagged for shipment to Snap Lake Mine sit on the lot in front of Chateau Nova on Highway 3. Sidney Cohen/NNSL photo.

“They're not oil drums, they're drums for foam. They're empty,” said Mike Mrdjenovich, whose family built the Chateau Nova hotel and owns the adjacent lot.

At least three of the drums were not empty.

Mrdjenovich maintained on Monday that all the barrels once contained liquid foam, even though the full, uncapped drum was labeled as hydraulic oil.

“Listen lady, you've been portraying me and making wrong accusations,” said Mrdjenovich, when asked for clarification about the uncapped drum.

“You guys are fake media, like Trump says. Just leave me alone and piss off, OK?”

According to guidelines for hazardous waste management published by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, empty drums must be stored on their side to prevent them from filling with rainwater or snow melt.

Only one of the drums on Mrdjenovich's lot is on its side.

The guidelines also state that containers should be sealed or closed at all times, unless they are in use.


Materials once destined for Snap Lake

On Friday, Manson took Yellowknifer on a tour of the site and pointed out items he found puzzling.

He said pallets stacked high with metal mesh and bundles of black rods were not hotel building supplies but mining materials meant for Snap Lake.

They still had the shipping tags attached to prove it.

Snap Lake, a diamond mine 220 km northeast of Yellowknife, ceased operations in December of 2015.

De Beers Canada, which owns Snap Lake, told Yellowknifer the stuff on the lot isn't theirs.

“We don't have anything left in Yellowknife,” spokesperson Tom Ormbsy said on Monday.

Ormbsy said De Beers had an auction of all of its leftover materials in August.

“Millions of dollars of stuff was purchased by people from Yellowknife and other places in the country,” he said.

In November 2017, Manson sent the city a letter of complaint about the unsightly lot.

“This is not construction equipment for the second phase of the construction of the hotel. This material is mining equipment destined for Snap Lake,” he wrote in the letter, which he provided to Yellowknifer.

Manson asked the Planning and Development Department to investigate the situation.

“The city knew a year ago that this stuff wasn't part of the construction,” Manson said.

“The city had the capability to deal with this a year ago but chose not to.”

Yellowknifer's request for an interview with Nalini Naidoo, the city's director of Planning and Development, was declined.

City spokesperson Richard McIntosh stated in an email Tuesday that city staff have been in weekly contact with the lot's owners and have inspected the property. McIntosh did not specify when the inspection took place.

“Enforcement is being considered under the zoning bylaw and will be discussed with the owners prior to the city taking these formal steps. The City of Yellowknife prefers to work with businesses and land owners to resolve land use issues,” wrote McIntosh.

He added that concerns about contaminants should be reported to the GNWT's spill line.

Kevin O'Reilly, MLA for Frame Lake, said he has asked the city about junk on the lot in front of Chateau Nova.

“It is a real eyesore,” O'Reilly wrote in an email on Tuesday.

“It’s really an issue for the city unless there are materials being spilled or escaping into the environment, which should prompt GNWT and others into action.”

Environment and Natural Resources did not respond to questions related to the regulation of chemical barrels before Wednesday's print deadline.