02/12/2015 02:26 EST | Updated 04/14/2015 05:59 EDT

'Men can go out on the land:' Sewage problems cause emergency in Arctic hamlet

POND INLET, Nunavut - A remote Arctic community is in a state of emergency after two of its three sewage trucks broke down.

Pond Inlet in Nunavut has 550 homes full of toilets to flush and only one truck to empty the tanks. And, for a while, even that truck was down.

"It couldn't keep up with the demands of the small community," deputy mayor Josh Arreak said Thursday. "It broke down for a few hours and we had nothing, but then it was fixed."

In Pond Inlet, a hamlet of 1,500 on the north end of Baffin Island, water and sewage services are provided by truck. While the town's water trucks are working fine, sewage pumpers that empty storage tanks have been experiencing mechanical failures that began at Christmas.

The town's remaining truck has been operating 16 hours a day for the last week trying to keep up. One partially broken-down pumper is able to help out a bit — but it can't go into reverse.

The problem is compounded because water tanks shut down when the sewage tank is full. Residents have been asked to conserve water and refrain from doing laundry — even in homes with infants.

People are also being asked to use facilities at public buildings or to ask their neighbours if they still have room in their tank.

"People are very friendly," Arreak said. "They're trying to compromise to live with a situation that can't be helped."

A mechanic has been flown in to try to fix the trucks. But Arreak says what Pond Inlet is really hoping for is a Hercules aircraft with two shiny new trucks in its hold.

Until then, he said, people will have to make do.

"If worst comes to the worst, men can go out on the land."

— By Bob Weber in Edmonton