Arviat, Nunavut airport reopens after major fuel spill

A fuel leak at the Arviat air terminal building caused the terminal to close earlier this month. (Submitted by Calm Air )

By Mah Noor Mubarik · CBC News

The leak was caused by a fuel system failure, Nunavut government says

Passengers are now able to head back inside an airport terminal in Arviat, Nunavut, after a fuel spill forced it to close down on May 16.

The Arviat air terminal building’s fuel system developed a leak, and 3,000 to 4,000 litres of heating fuel leaked into a containment berm, where it mixed with water as well.

Around 55 barrels of the mixture had to be pumped out of the area, according to Joe Savikataaq Jr., Arviat’s mayor.

He said as of Wednesday the terminal was safe to use again.

“Operation-wise everything is back to normal,” he said, adding that there is ongoing repair work being done by the Nunavut government.

Savikataaq Jr. said a specialist checked the air quality at the terminal, and that it met safety standards. As a result, people will be allowed back.

Working towards permanent replacement 

While the terminal was closed during the spill, the airport itself didn’t shut down. Calm Air International LP offered its cargo warehouse as a makeshift place for passengers for terminal operations which includes things like checking in for flights, waiting for flights and checking in their baggage.

“What you are faced with is either people checking in for a flight and having to wait outside which of course is not ideal given these weather conditions, or number two, people having to cancel their flights,” said Gary Bell, president and CEO of Calm Air.

The government of Nunavut advised residents of the spill in a public service announcement last week.

“The fuel and any water and ice within the secondary containment was all cleaned up on Thursday, May 16. Work continued through the weekend to remove the contaminated materials from site for storage until they can be removed from the community,” a spokesperson for the Department of Economic Development and Transportation said in an email.

The statement also said that a replacement tank is being installed at the building, and work is being done to install a permanent replacement as well.

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