Cabinet coy on Dawson sewage costs

Dawson City's new sewage treatment plant faces a cost overrun of $5 million, says the Liberal Opposition. Not true, insists the Yukon Party government. Who's right? None of the above, really.

Dawson City’s new sewage treatment plant faces a cost overrun of $5 million, says the Liberal Opposition.

Not true, insists the Yukon Party government.

Who’s right? None of the above, really.

It’s true the project’s costs have swollen to $34.3 from $24.8 million.

This is partly because the territory has added a $4.8-million district heating system to the project. It would heat the sewage plant and nearby government buildings.

But that leaves nearly $5 million to be explained.

Unhelpfully, no answers were forthcoming from either Public Works Minister Archie Lang or Klondike MLA Steve Nordick when the Liberals’ Gary McRobb put several questions to them over the past two weeks.

“The project is on time and on budget,” said Lang on April 1. He didn’t answer the question, as to why the budget has grown.

Nordick also dodged the question, preferring to talk up the district heating system rather than explain millions in new costs.

“It is producing a potential revenue stream that takes greenhouse gases off the emissions. It cuts diesel spending costs for the city. It improves the overall well-being of my community,” he said April 7.

Which is all fine and well, but didn’t answer McRobb’s question, either.

Such tomfoolery may suggest there’s something amiss. But that’s not so, said Doris Wurfbaum, spokesperson for Public Works.

Why the discrepancy? The initial figure of $24.7 million just includes the cost of the construction contract, awarded in July to Vancouver-based Corix Water Systems. But that’s not the full price of the project.

Project managers need to be paid. So do lawyers, because the courts ordered the sewage plant to be built, after the City of Dawson was fined for dumping roughly-screened sewage into the Yukon River.

There are also public meetings that have been held to explain proposed treatment system to Dawsonites. And various studies have been conducted to lay the groundwork for the project.

It all adds up to an additional $4.6 million.

So McRobb is right, the budget has grown. But it’s inaccurate to call these fees cost overruns because that implies construction work has gone over budget.

So far, that’s not the case, said Wurfbaum.

Excluding the district heating system, the sewage plant is, all in, expected to cost $29.4 million. The work is to be complete by 2011.

It remains unclear why that’s so difficult for a government MLA to explain.

Online: Justice Minister Marian Horne makes some odd remarks about a recent high-profile sexual assault case. Visit www.yukon-news.com

Contact John Thompson at

johnt@yukon-news.com.