Residents in Keno could be drilling their own well after being without a water source since 2015. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News)

Keno residents are considering drilling their own well

After two years without a well, Keno residents are considering taking matters into their own hands.

Keno residents frustrated with the Yukon government for not drilling them a new well after their old one was damaged two years ago may soon be taking matters into their own hands.

“The townspeople, our community club, has decided that we will try and figure out a way to drill our own well since (the government) gave up on us,” Keno resident Joe Volf told the News Aug. 22.

“… I don’t know why they’re trying to neglect us up here and just trying to pretend that we don’t exist as part of the Yukon.”

Keno has been without a local source of water since July 2015, when its old well was accidentally damaged during a routine cleaning done by Midnight Sun Drilling. The cleaning caused the well to partially collapse, spilling dirt and rock into the water supply. Subsequent efforts to clean up the water proved costly and unsuccessful; the Yukon government’s been arranging for water to be trucked in daily from Mayo, about 60 kilometres away, since then.

However, Volf said the deliveries fail to take into account that the population of Keno — listed as 20 in the 2016 census but more commonly cited as 12 to 15 — “triples” in size during the warmer months of the year, when mining crews, campers and tourists set up shop in or pass through the community. Water deliveries aren’t always guaranteed either, Volf added.

“The example of yesterday, the truck was broke down so he couldn’t go get water to bring it up to the laundromat for showers and laundry so actual tourists had to turn around and leave town because there was no water for them,” he said.

According to Volf, the community started looking into funding and drilling a new well on its own after another Keno resident said a government engineer assigned to the damaged well site told him in the spring that the government would not be drilling one for them.

The Department of Community Services was not able to confirm that before today’s deadline.

Since then, the community’s scouted out several potential locations and contacted “a few drilling companies” for cost estimates, Volf said. The average estimated price for the size and depth of the well it wants is around $27,000. The community is planning on potentially approaching local mining companies and hosting various fundraisers to help cover that cost, he said.

“We’re going to try any way we can — GoFundMe, we’re maybe going to throw a few dances, I don’t know right now. We’re just figuring that out,” he said.

Keno’s not “bypassing” the government and is “still open to whatever” ideas it has, Volf added, but he sees “no reason to not have a well here.”

Another Keno resident, Sourdough Cafe owner Jim Milley, has started a petition addressed to Premier Sandy Silver, Minister of Community Services John Streicker and Minister of Health and Social Services Pauline Frost decrying the “critical situation” of the water supply in the community. It’s been signed by about 100 people so far, Milley said, and he plans to put in online soon to gain more traction.

Like Volf, Milley said there are “lots of places” much closer to Keno than Mayo where clean water is available and a well could be drilled.

“There is fresh water that is of higher quality than what we had from the last well very close at hand but nobody’s looking. … The mining belt and the fault zone is fairly limited, you do not have to get far out of Keno to be completely off it,” he said, adding that some residents have been getting drinking water from nearby Erikson Creek and that some people have “volunteered drills” to make a new well.

Milley said he was frustrated that the government seems to be ignoring those options and instead have focused its efforts on cleaning up the water in the damaged well when “nobody wants that back anyway.”

“The old well, which was really no good to begin with … was always affected by minerals, (the water) was hard as hell and you couldn’t even get a lather out of it,” he said. “I actually had to soak my glassware at the bar in vinegar when we were using that stuff to get the white film off of it.”

What Keno’s been experiencing is essentially “neglect,” Milley added.

“If you consider the fact that Keno City is not just the permanent residents of Keno City, there are literally hundreds of people that rely on this community for services … those people have been completely cut out of the equation,” he said.

The Department of Community Services was not able to comment on specific claims in this story before press time.

In an emailed statement, department spokesperson Diana Dryburgh said the government is “committed to providing extra deliveries on weekends where there are tourism-based events, resulting in increased demand for water.”

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com