Dawson lagoon proposal still rankles

The Tr’ondek Hwech’in is opposed to the proposed location of Dawson’s new wastewater treatment plant.

The Tr’ondek Hwech’in is opposed to the proposed location of Dawson’s new wastewater treatment plant.

On December 20, the First Nation submitted its concerns to the Yukon Environmental Socio-economic Assessment Board, which is currently reviewing the proposal.

Part of this submission was a four-page report from MDH Engineered Solutions Corp.

“The proposed siting of the Dawson City lagoon approximately one kilometre upstream of the city’s water-intake wells is less than ideal,” wrote engineer Moir Haug in the report’s preface.

“In such cases a ‘higher standard’ is expected in terms of the design, construction and monitoring.”

“I understand that YTG has that covered,” said Dawson Mayor John Steins on Monday morning.

“Of course there will be excellent construction, design and monitoring — they’re not just going to throw up any old thing.”

A more detailed investigation is necessary to determine the suitability of the site, said the report.

This investigation would look at the possibility of seepage and contamination as well as the potential impacts of earthquakes and floods.

It also suggests that a suitable monitoring and spill response program be developed.

“All these things have been addressed,” said Steins.

“As far as I can tell, from a layman’s point of view, it’s just pointing out the obvious.”

The report will be taken into account by the assessment board along with more than 80 other comments and submissions.

The deadline for public comment ended December 19.

“It’s just the Tr’ondek Hwech’in’s opinion,” said Steins.

“They’re gathering more ammunition in their bid to oppose the construction of the lagoon.”

A referendum on the project will take place on March 6 as the result of a recent petition.

The vote will be held alongside the by-election of a new town councillor.

“It’s excellent because this way we’ll get more people out,” said Steins.

“If it were only a referendum, it might be like in Whitehorse when only 12 per cent of the population turned up.”

Many Dawsonites hope to get the lagoon site changed because of its location at the entrance to town and its proximity to their water supply.

“The problem is they’re not offering any alternative,” said Steins.

“It’s OK to be in opposition to this location, but just give us something else to look at because we do have an obligation to build secondary sewage.”

At the end of February, a hearing will be held as part of the court order placed on Dawson for dumping sewage into the Yukon River in 2003.

“I don’t think there will be much earth-shattering activity because everything’s still in limbo at this point,” said Steins.

The lagoon project is currently on hold until the assessment board reaches a decision.