An excavator works on the old F.H. Collins site in Riverdale. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News)

Contaminated soil at F.H. Collins now tops 900 cubic metres

Environment Yukon says it will be another week or two before work is done

The amount of contaminated soil found under the old F.H. Collins school has ballooned to 900 cubic metres and the environment department isn’t finished cleaning up yet.

Environment Yukon released its latest update on the state of the property July 24. Workers continue to remove dirty soil from the ground after they discovered more contamination than expected while demolishing the school last month.

Cleanup crews have reached the edge of the contamination in most directions, the department’s spokesperson Roxanne Stasyszyn said in an email. Areas to the north and southeast of the school are still being cleaned up.

“While we cannot be certain until we have reached the limits of contamination in all directions, we anticipate another one to two weeks to complete excavation of all contaminated soil. Once all contaminated soil is removed, we will continue to monitor groundwater through wells installed at the site.”

The mess is blamed on heating oil that leaked out of the school’s old underground tanks. Officials originally thought they were just dealing with a small leak under the old school’s foundation.

When demolition of that part of the school began last month, officials found the old heating system actually had small holes causing even more fuel to leak.

No one can say how long fuel had been leaking out of the pinholes. The tanks were removed in 2009.

The F.H. Collins site is about 400 metres from one of the wells connected to the Selkirk Aquifer, the source of Whitehorse’s drinking water.

Tests on the drinking water have come back clean, Stasyszyn said. Officials have said from the beginning that the risk to the city’s drinking water is low. The contamination is shallower than the level from which the drinking water is drawn.

Groundwater not used for drinking has been contaminated. As crews remove contaminated soil they have also been taking out the ground water at the bottom of the excavated holes.

To date, 15,000 gallons of water has been removed, Stasyszyn said. The water will be treated at a local facility.

Stasyszyn estimates remediation work has cost about $400,000 so far.

A list provided by the Yukon’s Department of Highways and Public Works lists 17 underground fuel tanks still installed at Yukon government buildings.

The old F.H. Collins system, where the surprise pinholes were discovered, was built in the 1960s, officials have previously said.

At least three of the sites left on the government’s to-do list also have systems installed in the ’60s. That includes the grader station in Watson Lake, the airport terminal in Mayo and the St. Elias Community School. Some tanks on the list don’t include the year they were installed.

The government is in the process of removing all underground tanks connected to government buildings.

Public works spokesperson Brittanee Stewart said the department is scheduled to remove four more tanks this fiscal year. One of them is at the Teen Parent Centre in Riverdale, she said. That’s not an older tank — it was installed in 1995 — but it’s being removed because of where it is located. She didn’t know which other three tanks had been chosen for this year or when the older tanks are slated to be removed.

“All of the fuel tanks are evaluated on a case-by-case basis and the age of the tank, the building age, the fuel tank testing results and environmental implications all factor into tank removal decision making.”

Plans to remove tanks have not been accelerated after what was found under F.H. Collins, she said.

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

Environmentremediation

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

Just Posted

Benjamin Poudou, Mount MacIntyre’s ski club manager, poses for a photo in the club’s ski rental area on Nov. 16. The club has sold around 1,850 passes already this year, compared to 1067 passes on Oct. 31 last year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Early season ski pass sales up as Yukoners prepare for pandemic winter

Season passe sales at Mount McIntyre for cross-country skiing are up by around 60 per cent this year

The City of Whitehorse will be spending $655,000 to upgrade the waste heat recovery system at the Canada Games Centre. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New waste heat recovery system coming to the CGC

Council approves $655,000 project

Yukon First Nation Education Directorate education advocates and volunteers help to sort and distribute Christmas hamper grocery boxes outside Elijah Smith Elementary School on Feb. 23. (Rebecca Bradford Andrew/Submitted)
First Nation Education Directorate begins Christmas hamper program

Pick-ups for hampers are scheduled at local schools

Cyrine Candido, cashier, right, wipes down the new plexi-glass dividers at Superstore on March 28, before it was commonplace for them to wear masks. The Yukon government is relaunching the Yukon Essential Workers Income Support Program as the second wave of COVID-19 begins to take place in the territory. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon Essential Workers Income Support Program extended to 32 weeks

More than 100 businesses in the territory applied for the first phase of the program

Cody Pederson of the CA Storm walks around LJ’s Sabres player Clay Plume during the ‘A’ division final of the 2019 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament. The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28 in Whitehorse next year, was officially cancelled on Nov. 24 in a press release from organizers. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament cancelled

The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28… Continue reading

Lev Dolgachov/123rf
The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner stressed the need to safeguard personal information while shopping this holiday season in a press release on Nov. 24.
Information and Privacy Commissioner issues reminder about shopping

The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay stressed the need to… Continue reading

Keith Lay speaks at a city council meeting on Dec. 4, 2017. Lay provided the lone submission to council on the city’s proposed $33 million capital spending plan for 2021 on Nov. 23, taking issue with a number of projects outlined. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Resident raises issues with city’s capital budget

Council to vote on budget in December

Beatrice Lorne was always remembered by gold rush veterans as the ‘Klondike Nightingale’. (Yukon Archives/Maggies Museum Collection)
History Hunter: Beatrice Lorne — The ‘Klondike Nightingale’

In June of 1929, 11 years after the end of the First… Continue reading

Samson Hartland is the executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines. The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during its annual general meeting held virtually on Nov. 17. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Yukon Chamber of Mines elects new board

The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during… Continue reading

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and — unsurprisingly — hospital visitations were down. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Annual report says COVID-19 had a large impact visitation numbers at Whitehorse General

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and… Continue reading

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

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Most Read