The Salvation Army will not be on the hook for cleanup should there be any hydrocarbon contamination found underneath its new building in Whitehorse. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News)

Salvation Army off the hook for any contamination found under new Whitehorse building

The Salvation Army will not be liable for any hydrocarbon contamination found under its new building

The Salvation Army will not be liable for any hydrocarbon contamination found underneath its new building in Whitehorse, thanks to an order-in-council signed last month.

The order authorizes the territorial government to “give an indemnity… to the governing council of the Salvation Army in Canada against liability arising from hydrocarbon contaminants in the ground water [sic] and soil” in and under the organization’s new building at 4th Avenue and Alexander Street, starting no later than Oct. 1 and effective for a maximum term of 20 years.

The indemnification was requested by the Salvation Army, cabinet spokesperson Sunny Patch said, because the site used to be home to a gas station and auto repair shop and left the soil and groundwater contaminated with fuel and other pollutants. The soil was cleaned up prior to the construction of the new building and the groundwater will be monitored for the next five years, Patch said, but should future issues arise, the order will ensure the Salvation Army is not on the hook for the clean-up.

Earlier this month a spokesperson for Environment Yukon said the department spent $1.2 million on soil and groundwater cleanup.

“It will still be the responsibility of the Yukon government to mitigate (contamination) as needed,” Patch said, adding that the government is also the owner of the new building.

Reached on Aug. 29, Whitehorse Salvation Army executive director Ian McKenzie said the request for the indemnity was put in by staff from the organization’s national headquarters in Toronto and that local staff had little to do with the process.

A spokesperson for the Salvation Army in Toronto did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

The new building, which will provide much-needed additional shelter and support services for vulnerable people in Whitehorse, is slated to open this fall.

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