An online Zoom meeting about the closure of the Silver City transfer station attracted half a dozen attendees on Sept. 20. They included residents and business owners in the unincorporated community, a resident of Keno City, where the transfer station closed in 2022, and NDP leader Kate White.
The meeting consisted of a Power Point presentation on waste management, followed by a question and answer period.
The Yukon government recently announced plans to close transfer stations in Silver City, Johnson’s Crossing and Braeburn. Residents will have to take their garbage to waste facilities in larger communities at least 50 kilometres away.
It’s part of a plan to upgrade existing facilities in larger communities. Changes include introducing composting, having gated and staffed dumps, and charging tipping fees to offset some of the costs.
Dave Albisser is the director of community services for the Yukon government. He presented at three meetings this week.
The Johnson’s Crossing meeting, held Sept. 19, was attended by three residents, a representative from the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board and NDP leader Kate White. White was the only attendee at the Braeburn meeting on Sept. 20.
One of the attendees at the Silver City meeting was Jenilee Cook. Cook is a citizen of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nation who uses the transfer station. She wanted to know who was on the 2018 solid waste committee that was responsible for the idea to close the transfer stations.
Cook said she doesn’t know if that committee understands the impact of such a closure on people like her father, in his 80s, who’s being told to pay fuel and tipping fees to make the 120-kilometre round-trip journey from Silver City to Haines Junction to throw out his trash.
“I think that it was poor planning, not to consult with the citizens first and I think that again this would have been a very amazing partnership with any of the First Nation governments,” said Cook.
Albisser said the solid waste committee was, over time, comprised of various groups that had been “burdened with the responsibility” of managing those stations.
In a phone call with the News on Sept. 20, Albisser said the goal of closing the smaller stations and modernizing larger ones is to improve waste management from a financial and environmental perspective.
According to Albisser, staffed stations will help guard against things like oil spills, which happen “relatively frequently” at unsupervised sites.
The other environmental piece, he said, is being able to offer facilities that allow for organic sorting. This is hard to do at smaller sites because of the amount of space organic materials require to compost, especially in the winter when they can otherwise freeze together.
Together, he said the Yukon government and municipalities spend $12-million a year on waste management. The Johnsons’s Crossing transfer station alone serves 55 people and costs around $100,000 annually, he said.
Albisser said he understands the frustrations people have with the closures. He said the meetings were in place to come up with solutions.
He told the News that in a community like Silver City, there is no grocery store. There are no amenities. Residents have to go into Haines Junction or Whitehorse to pick up essentials anyway.
“When you go out for those services, groceries and fuel, or hardware and lumber, can you bring your garbage with you?” he said.
He said there may be other solutions as well, referencing Keno. When the waste transfer station there shut down in 2022, the government provided bear-proof community bins. Hecla Mining Company stepped in to pick up waste weekly in the summer and every two weeks in the winter.
James Allen, another attendee at the Silver City meeting, runs a wilderness camp on Christmas Bay, near Silver City. He said he didn’t see how the new measures were environmentally sound when they mean he’s going to have to drive his diesel truck up and down the highway to haul garbage from his camp.
Allen also expressed concern that it will lead to people burning their garbage in barrels rather than disposing of it.
Albisser said people can burn up to five kilograms of waste daily, with a permit, but he hopes they don’t resort to that.
There’s no timeline in place for the closure of the transfer stations.
Contact Amy Kenny at email@example.com