Burning money

Burning money Thank you for your July 18 article regarding the incinerator debate in Haines Junction. The annual fuel cost of the Egegik, Alaska, incinerator was listed at $11,400. This was true at a time when fuel was priced at $1.30/gallon. Today's pri

Thank you for your July 18 article regarding the incinerator debate in Haines Junction. The annual fuel cost of the Egegik, Alaska, incinerator was listed at $11,400. This was true at a time when fuel was priced at $1.30/gallon. Today’s pricing would be four-fold that number.

It’s important because it appears the fiscal implications of the proposed incinerator in Haines Junction are being drastically underestimated.

I’m about as fiscally conservative as they come. I believe in careful, long-term planning. I don’t accept any old advertised promise, and I view government money as my hard-earned tax money.

What does this have to do with an incinerator in Haines Junction?

The village estimates that we will spend up to $2,000 per year on fuel to operate the incinerator. Fuel for the Skagway incinerator (similar to the proposed incinerator in Haines Junction) cost $53,000 in 2002, and Egegik spends $44,000 per year (at today’s fuel prices).

An independent study for a proposed incinerator in Burwash pegged fuel costs at $38,000 per year (today’s fuel prices) for 1/10th the quantity of garbage Haines Junction is looking at.

Obviously, there is a large discrepancy between these numbers and the village’s estimate.

The fiscal implications of the incinerator plan haven’t been thought through in the long term either. Currently, Haines Junction diverts (recycles and composts) 10 to 20 per cent of our garbage, when we could be diverting 80 to 85 per cent. The Yukon has a mandate of 50 per cent diversion by 2015 and zero waste by 2040.

Why then are we considering spending $1 million on an incinerator and associated infrastructure that in the end will only be useful for 15 per cent of our garbage? Why are we spending next to nothing on increasing our rates of recycling and composting and creating the infrastructure needed to do so?

Let’s focus on dealing with 85 per cent of our garbage, not 15 per cent of it. Let’s watch the incinerator in Old Crow and see how much fuel it burns, in reality, in a Yukon climate. In a year or two, we’ll have a much more accurate picture of the long-term costs that we are signing up for.

In the meantime, it looks like we have closer to 20 or 30 years of life left in our local landfill, not the seven to 10 years that were originally estimated.

Our community has been told that going ahead with the proposed incinerator is a solution to a looming garbage crisis. It appears, however, that it is simply short-term thinking where long-term planning is needed.

What we do need is a community-based process that considers all options with the goal of developing a long-term, fiscally responsible waste-management plan.

Dave Weir

Haines Junction

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