Thursday, April 4, 2013

checking out the dump

"Time to go to the dump," my boss said. We had stuff to throw out. Just a day in the life of an Arctic lawyer.

I hadn't been to the dump before. I was vaguely aware that there must be some place where they carted off my garbage, but it hadn't been on the list of things I wanted to see the most when I first arrived.  Generally, we don't think much about dumps, right? But then my friends down South started asking me, where does the garbage go? We can't possibly be burying it, not when the ground is frozen for most of the year.  So where does our trash go? It was time to find out.

the road to the dump

We loaded up the truck and headed out.  The dump wasn't that hard to find. There are only a few roads that lead out of Cambridge Bay, and Google Maps would have you believe that they lead to nowhere. I mean, they do go on for a long time, but they don't lead to other towns - the only other town on Victoria Island is Ulukhaktok, which is actually part of the Northwest Territories. (Yup, on this island that is twice the size of Newfoundland, there are only two towns that are pretty much on opposite ends. How's that for isolation?)  There's one road that goes out to the airport, and another towards the old town ruins, and then there's this one that goes out to the dump, and then to a lake, that is awfully close to the dump.  I hope this is not the lake where our water comes from.

all roads lead to waste

Anyway, the dump in Cambridge Bay is like a regular dump, I guess (to be honest, I'm not all that familiar with regular dumps), but in the dead of winter it's a bit of a surreal sight, these random piles of garbage on what appears to be a random spot in the middle of the Arctic tundra.  As I unloaded our junk from the truck and threw them into the landscape, it felt weird.  Like I was just chucking stuff into the snowy Arctic wilderness.  Which, I suppose, I basically was doing. But in a designated spot.

The dump is actually marked off by a fence and signs, and off in the distance I could hear heavy machinery working at crushing the trash, or whatever it is these things do at dumps.  Sometimes in town, we can see the smoke in the sky when the dump's on fire.  As you can imagine, it's a pretty popular place for the ravens and the crows.  I asked my boss if there's any problems with wild animals at the dump. She said no. But I kind of have a hard time believing that polar bears would stay away from such a buffet if they'd ever discovered it.

giant ravens

Believe it or not, the road to the dump has become a part of my walking routes now. It's a great road to run on if I want to extend my route by a few kilometres, and the scenery on the way there is gorgeous, because it is, of course, pristine Arctic tundra. And no, there isn't even much of a smell issue, because everything is frozen.