Délįnę plans to purchase a new industrial incinerator after the territorial government barred the community from using its “home-made” versions earlier this month.
For two years, the hamlet of just over 500 people had been using open-air incinerators hand-built by community members from old metal tanks.
Kirk Dolphus, Délįnę’s director of municipal services, told Cabin Radio those incinerators had been used to burn paper and cardboard boxes.
They have also been used to burn clothing for traditional purposes, he said – which is what began causing problems.
“In our tradition, when people pass on, we burn their clothes. We don’t throw them in the dump,” Dolphus said. “We’ve had that way before the government kicked in here in the ’40s and ’50s, and we keep doing that.”
However, the burning of clothes breaks territorial regulations regarding the open burning of solid waste.
The incinerators had not been registered with the GNWT, according to an inspection report filed in September by the territory’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
That report stated the “home-made incinerators [are] a concerning feature.”
A follow-up letter expresses concern at the incinerators’ lack of filters, proper spark meshing, and material segregation.
Territorial legislation requires that items be segregated to allow for controlled burning and proper air filtration. Certain materials – including clothing – cannot be incinerated as burning may release toxins into the air.
“It is the recommendation that these incinerators not be used any further,” the department told Dolphus by email.
According to Dolphus, this was the first such communication about the incinerators in the two years since their construction. He said the situation upset some community members.
“Elders were saying, ‘Well, we have to burn,’ which is right,” he said. “But right now it’s a different environment that we have, a different government.
“We have to be careful that we don’t break any territorial guidelines.”
The community is now seeking a “state-of-the-art” incinerator, Dolphus said, though he acknowledged they “aren’t cheap.” But he feels acquiring one is important to residents.
“I want to be able to accommodate our people but, at the same time, make sure we don’t break any policies and we’re compliant with not burning any pollutants or contaminants,” he said.
As yet, there is no timeline for the purchase and installation of a new incinerator.