The Hay River highrise is still facing issues with a number of toxic substances – including asbestos and mould – and no one should be entering or living in the building according to the territorial government
The Mackenzie Place apartment building – commonly referred to as the Hay River highrise – was closed following a fire that broke out on the 11th floor on March 15. The GNWT issued a public reminder on Monday that the building is still under a public health order from the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer, in place since May 17.
“The building has remained closed due to the confirmed presence of hazardous materials, including asbestos, lead, and mercury,” a GNWT news release stated. “Water damaged materials have supported the growth of mould, which presents an additional hazard.”
Senior administrative officer with the Town of Hay River Judy Goucher said she doesn’t know why the GNWT would issue this information now. It could be, she said, to put information out after several stories published in the local newspaper indicated owner Harry Satdeo intends to open the building imminently.
Satdeo first told Hay River Hub reporter Paul Bickford he intended to re-open the highrise in late August. He later delayed the opening date to September and again to December 1. In an October 25 interview with Bickford, Satdeo said the main hurdle was finding workers who were trained in asbestos removal.
Once the building reopens, Satdeo said he’d be looking for the GNWT to either take over the building or provide a $500,000 loan for repairs including to the balconies. “With the new government in place, we might have a little more help,” he said.
Cabin Radio requests for an interview with Harry Satdeo for this story were not immediately returned. Repeated requests to speak with Satdeo since the March fire have also been unsuccessful.
Spokesperson with the territory’s health department Damien Healy stated in an email that the reminder was issued to ensure the situation in the highrise – including the presence of “asbestos, lead, mercury, and mould” – was at the forefront for people in order to protect them from exposure.
Under the order, no member of the public can enter or live in the building. This includes off-shift workers. When asked whether anyone was living in the building, Healy stated the office of the chief public health officer couldn’t confirm if people had been living there. If reports like this were received they would have to be investigated, he added.
Goucher said the Town hasn’t dealt with any municipal enforcement issues around the building. The only incident was a December 13 fire in a vehicle parked in the Mackenzie Place parking lot, which was put out by first responders.
As for anyone inhabiting the building, Town officials do inspections when requested by the office of the fire marshal. Goucher didn’t know of anyone attempting to stay in the highrise.
“There are workers going in and out of the building, but the Town has no knowledge and has received no reports of anyone staying in the building,” Goucher stated.
Under the order, Satdeo and representatives of Satdeo Inc are required to remediate the building and have the office of the chief public health officer review the work. The order will only be lifted once safety requirements are met and approved by the territory’s chief environmental health officer, the GNWT news release stated.
There are other orders in place for the building from the Workers’ Safety and Compensation Commission relating to the safety of workers and others entering the building, the Department of Infrastructure who have a list of deficiencies that need fixing before restoring power to the apartments, and the NWT rental office that is mandated to resolve landlord-tenant issues.
The office of the fire marshal has also ordered the 11th floor stay closed as the fire alarm system is damaged, as well as ordered repairs to the balconies which have been off-limits to residents since 2014. Satdeo Inc was fined $10,000 in 2017 over building code violations related to the balconies.
The cause of the fire is still being investigated RCMP spokesperson Julie Plourde confirmed, and because of this no detailed information could be shared. “We can assure you, the investigators are working to resolve the investigation. We will update as soon as we have information that can be released,” she stated in an email to Cabin Radio.