Contractors caught burning plastic during a warehouse demolition near downtown Whitehorse will be allowed to continue the burning under stricter supervision.
Yukon’s Environment Department halted work at the site late last week when workers, who were only allowed to burn wood, were found incinerating electrical cables and plastic.
The old warehouse on Quartz Road is owned by the Yukon government. It hired Arctic Environmental Services Ltd. to demolish the building for about $80,000 because the warehouse straddles land that has been ceded to the Kwanlin Dun First Nation as part of its land claim agreement.
The company has permission to incinerate wood. But it would need an air emissions permit and an environmental assessment to burn plastic.
The plastic was burned by accident, said Michael Cowper, the project manager with Public Works. Prior to burning, contractors put “a lot of effort” into cleaning the building out, he said.
“He took all the asbestos out. A special contractor went in to take the electrical components out. He left the wiring in because there was so little of it, and it would be easier to break it out when the building was torn apart.”
Environment has since agreed to allow the burning to proceed, provided that wood is properly separated from other materials and additional supervision is provided, said Cowper.
The warehouse was built by the US Army during the Second World War during construction of the Canol pipeline that stretched from Norman Wells to a refinery in Whitehorse.
Wood from the construction site could be salvaged, but contractors have found it’s not cost effective, said Cowper.
“We could take it to the dump, but we don’t like doing that,” he added.
“Once you fill up the dump, you’ve got trucks driving up and down (the Alaska Highway) burning gasoline. And you’re not supposed to be doing that during these green days.” (John Thompson)