Once upon a time – May 24, 2011, to be exact – we learned that a million is a really big number.

We owe that to the South Slave Divisional Education Council, which collected one million beads over nearly 10 months to illustrate the number for students.

In the so-called Million Project, numerous strings of beads were tied together into one massive string and spread around the track at Diamond Jenness Secondary School. It circled the track more than 16 times, measuring exactly 6,438.6 metres, or 6.4 km.

It was even recognized by The Guinness Book of World Records as the longest string of beads ever created.

At this point, you may be wondering about our stroll down memory lane, but seeing a million of anything leaves an impression. While the project was designed to teach students, we learned something, too.

In the Million Project in 2011 by schools in the South Slave, a string of over one million beads was laid out around the track at Diamond Jenness Secondary School.
NNSL file photo

When we read or hear about a million of anything, we often remember the million beads circling the DJ track.

So we were taken aback when we heard that the Hay River dump fire, which burned for most of March, will end up costing about $1 million, with a lot of that going to water sampling and laboratory testing.

Subtract the $100,000 for actual fire fighting that is going to be covered by insurance carried by the Town of Hay River and that will leave about $900,000.

The town says a large part of that $900,000 will be for water sampling and laboratory testing to ensure there is no contamination coming from the dump because of all the water used to fight the fire.

The fire was first noticed on March 3, so that means there have been 179 days to this Hub’s publication date of Aug. 28.

While the final cost will be about $1 million, the running total is now about $900,000 – or $800,000 if you subtract the insurance payment.

Whatever the final cost of ongoing water sampling and laboratory testing, there is no acceptable reason it should account for a large part of $800,000 after just 179 days. That just seems excessive beyond belief.

Someone has made and is making a lot of money from this dump fire.

We obviously chose the wrong profession when we got into newspapers. Sampling and laboratory testing apparently offers the big money.

We’re not trying to minimize the importance of environmental testing. We’re saying the expense should be minimized.

And if water sampling and testing is a regulatory requirement, why doesn’t the GNWT or some senior government pay for it right from the start? It seems too much of an expense for a small town, even if it can apply for disaster assistance.

A $1-million expense for a dump fire in Hay River is ridiculous any way you look at it.

It gets even more ridiculous if the GNWT doesn’t eventually help pay the expense under its Disaster Assistance Policy and the Town of Hay River is stuck with a $900,000 bill.

Perhaps the town can argue in its application for disaster assistance that the cost of water sampling and lab tests is the real disaster.


Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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