More than a decade after Dawson City residents voted a “resounding no” — as town mayor Wayne Potoroka described it — against rezoning a site at the bottom of the Dome Road for a sewage lagoon, planning work is moving forward to replace the town’s costly wastewater treatment plant with a lagoon.
Town council approved moving forward with the work in January.
As Potoroka explained in a Feb. 11 interview, the Yukon government approached the town about six months ago looking for a more sustainable, economical option. The treatment plant currently costs $950,000 a year to operate and the Yukon government has stated it wants to shut down the plant down by 2026.
The town and territorial government are working together on the issue, he stressed. While costs aren’t fully known, lagoons are generally less expensive to operate than treatment plants.
The Dawson treatment plant, which opened in 2013 and cost about $30 million to build, has been plagued with cost and operation issues since it opened.
The Yukon government, which paid for the building and most of the operations of the facility (with Dawson kicking in $210,000 annually), is currently in legal proceedings with Corix Utilities, which designed and built the plant, and is not commenting on the situation, Department of Community Services spokesperson Kara Johancsik said in an email.
Potoroka said while the 2008 referendum resulted in a no to the chosen spot at that time, the results didn’t consider any sort of Plan B for a lagoon in another location.
“That’s what’s happening now,” he said.
In 2008, the council of the day immediately went from the possibility of a lagoon to looking at the mechanical solution to deal with the town’s sewage, Potoroka said. The result was the treatment plant.
This time around officials will be looking at more than one site for a lagoon.
Potoroka said reaction around town to developing a sewage lagoon seems to be mixed. He suspects opinions will vary depending on what locations are considered.
The first step for Dawson will be a public engagement process beginning in March. That will look at finding a balance between technical feasibility and community concerns as well as coming up with design criteria with the public to “make sure their concerns are built into selection criteria for the site,” according to a report last month.
By June, it’s anticipated options could begin being looked at through the second phase of public engagement with a report back to town council in July or August.
It’s expected there would be public meetings in both phases.
Officials will be looking at the work done ahead of the 2008 referendum to glean relevant information to the current decision, Potoroka said.
While the Yukon government is aiming to have a new alternative in place and the treatment plan shut by 2026, Potoroka expects the work “could be several years” before a lagoon is in place, though he also said he’d be happy to be proven wrong on that.
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