Putting out fires

The Yukon Environment and Socio-Economic Assessment Board has released its recommendations regarding the continuing burning of household waste at most community dumps. The recommendation is that the open burning of solid waste be prohibited except for cl

The Yukon Environment and Socio-Economic Assessment Board has released its recommendations regarding the continuing burning of household waste at most community dumps.

The recommendation is that the open burning of solid waste be prohibited except for clean wood and paper.

This recommendation includes a prohibition on burning garbage in the existing burning vessels, essentially very large barrels with spark suppressors on the chimneys.

What is occurring at most Yukon community dumps is that garbage is burned.

Due to the unstaffed nature of the dumps, there is no way to prevent plastics and hazardous waste being burned.

This means that whenever burning occurs all sorts of nasty toxins are released into the atmosphere.

These toxins could potentially include heavy metals, dioxins and furans.

Not only can these items be toxic in and of themselves, but when burnt they can mix and bond together to form potentially even more harmful elements.

This practice has been reviewed by Yukon Environment and Socio-Economic Assessment Board, and it has been found wanting.

The board notes that waste burning has historically been responsible for a significant portion of the mercury, dioxins and furans emitted in Canada.

Mercury and other heavy metals such as lead, and substances such as dioxins and furans, have been associated with adverse health conditions in humans

Since there has been little to no testing of the air emissions at the dumps, the quantities of heavy metals, dioxins and furans emitted are not known.

There are emission standards for these elements when waste is burnt at a dump.

The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment set Canadian standards for mercury, dioxin and furan emissions from waste burning.

These standards include targets for the virtual elimination of the emitting of these toxins.

Now the next step in the dump burning-review process is for the Yukon government to accept, reject or modify the recommendation that the open burning of solid waste be prohibited.

It will be slightly awkward if burning is allowed to continue, and heavy metals, dioxins and furans continue to be released above and beyond the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment standards.

In two weeks it will be more than awkward, it will be embarrassing.

That is when the aforementioned Council of the Ministers of the Environment is meeting in Whitehorse.

The Yukon government, as host of this meeting, should be living up to the standards that this group of ministers has set.

It must be noted that the Yukon Environment and Socio-Economic Assessment Board recommendations on waste treatment at community dumps are mainly consistent with what the general public, environmental groups and local levels of government have been asking for. They have been asking for, and the recommendation in part concurs, that the open burning of solid waste be prohibited.

This recommendation is good news for the environment, it is good news for communities, and it is good news for the Yukon.

There are alternatives to burning waste that are safe for both the environment and for humans in dealing with waste.

However there are also consequences, costs and benefits to all different waste-management practices.

It is just a matter of assigning resources to finding and implementing the healthiest for each community.

The next year will require a lot of hard work by all concerned in waste management in addressing this issue.

Well-deserved congratulations go out to all Yukon people who spoke up and who submitted comments on this issue.

As far as waste management goes, ongoing participation by all concerned will ensure a clean and healthy environment.

Lewis Rifkind is a Whitehorse based part-time environmentalist.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

In a Feb. 17 statement, the City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology used for emergency response. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Three words could make all the difference in an emergency

City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology

Jesse Whelen, Blood Ties Four Directions harm reduction councillor, demonstrates how the organization tests for fentanyl in drugs in Whitehorse on May 12, 2020. The Yukon Coroner’s Service has confirmed three drug overdose deaths and one probable overdose death since mid-January. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three overdose deaths caused by “varying levels of cocaine and fentanyl,” coroner says

Heather Jones says overdoses continue to take lives at an “alarming rate”

Wyatt's World for Feb. 24, 2021.
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Feb. 24, 2021.

Approximately 30 Yukoners protest for justice outside the Whitehorse courthouse on Feb. 22, while a preliminary assault hearing takes place inside. The Whitehorse rally took place after the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society, based in Watson Lake, put out a call to action over the weekend. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Courthouse rally denounces violence against Indigenous women

The Whitehorse rally took place after the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society put out a call to action

Then Old Crow MLA Darius Elias speak’s in the community centre in Old Crow in 2016. Elias died in Whitehorse on Feb. 17. (Maura Forrest/Yukon News file)
Condolences shared for former Vuntut Gwitchin MLA Darius Elias

Elias is remembered as a proud parent, hockey fan and politican

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

The Yukon government and the Yukon First Nations Chamber of Commerce have signed a letter of understanding under the territory’s new procurement policy. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
First Nation business registry planned under new procurement system

Letter of understanding signals plans to develop registry, boost procurement opportunities

US Consul General Brent Hardt during a wreath-laying ceremony at Peace Arch State Park in September 2020. Hardt said the two federal governments have been working closely on the issue of appropriate border measures during the pandemic. (John Kageorge photo)
New U.S. consul general says countries working closely on COVID-19 border

“I mean, the goal, obviously, is for both countries to get ahead of this pandemic.”

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Start of spring sitting announced

The Yukon legislature is set to resume for the spring sitting on… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

(Submitted)
History Hunter: Kwanlin Dün — a book of history, hardship and hope

Dǎ Kwǎndur Ghày Ghàkwadîndur: Our Story in Our Words is published by… Continue reading

(File photo)
RCMP arrest Saskatchewan murder suspect

Yukon RCMP have arrested a man suspected of attempted murder from outside… Continue reading

Most Read