Ignoring the advice of the Yukon Environmental Socio-economic Assessment Board, community leaders and senior governments, the territory is going to continue to burn its garbage.
Alternatives are too expensive, said the Yukon government, responding to recommendations that it stop burning garbage immediately.
Instead, it will spend the next three years stalling.
That’s too long.
The Yukon has a reputation for cleanliness that is overstated.
The territory’s air is still relatively good – in some places – but Yukoners shouldn’t take it for granted.
Recently, scientists were testing for airborne contaminants, like DDT and chlordane (which has links to breast cancer) near Tagish. They were trying to figure out where the chemicals were coming from.
But they had to abandon the community because the air was too bad.
The Tagish dump burns its garbage. And the air was so brown the researchers couldn’t figure out whether the nasties were coming from Asia or down the road.
So, they were forced to move their study to Little Fox Lake.
Burning garbage releases a lot of really bad stuff into the air.
This toxic smoke that hangs around Yukon communities can make it difficult to breathe. It makes some people’s eyes water. And the stench often lingers for days.
Burning in the Carcross area can be smelled 10 kilometres away at Crag Lake.
Residents of Marsh Lake, Ross River and the Southern Lakes region have all asked to have the practice stopped.
The government has refused. No politician wants to blow money on trash.
So instead, officials will put off any action for three years.
But the government’s math simply focuses on the direct costs of eliminating burning.
There are hidden health and environmental costs to the practice not being considered in the government’s calculations.
Once they are considered, the territory’s decision may not seem as pennywise.
Nothing is free, especially not the air we breathe.
The territory is proceeding under the mistaken belief that this small population cannot pollute the territory’s air.
We know that isn’t the case. All we have to do is study the air around Yukon communities.
It is much more foul than we previously suspected. So foul, researchers have had to move their work to more isolated places.
In light of this, the government’s decision to reject the advice of the assessment board seems cavalier.
Maybe the Yukon can wait. Maybe we can continue to spew toxins into the air.
Maybe that will save some money.
And maybe no one will develop cancer.
And, then again, maybe someone will.
Fortunately, for the decision makers, that stuff gets left off the ledger. (Richard Mostyn)