Dawson’s 25M test case

Corix is cutting its teeth on Dawson City's new sewage system. Last week, the Yukon government signed a $24.8-million contract with the BC company to install a deep-shaft wastewater system in the town by 2011.

Corix is cutting its teeth on Dawson City’s new sewage system.

Last week, the Yukon government signed a $24.8-million contract with the BC company to install a deep-shaft wastewater system in the town by 2011.

It’s a first for Corix.

“We own and operate upwards of 100 wastewater plants around North America,” said Corix director of sales and marketing, David Speed.

But none of those plants use deep-shaft technology, he said.

“This is the first one.”

Usually, sewage is stored in lagoons.

But Corix is going to pump Dawson’s waste underground.

The sewage shafts are 100 metres deep, said Speed.

“Wastewater treatment stems on getting oxygen into the wastewater so it can feed the bugs that eat up the bad stuff and create the sludge,” he said.

“The way the system is designed, instead of having a whole bunch of high-powered blowers that bubble air through a big basin on the surface, we just use a compressor that bubbles air into the bottom of the shaft.”

Because the shafts are underground, the sewage system has “a much smaller footprint,” said Speed.

Deep-shaft technology has been around for more than 30 years, but there are very few of these plants in North America.

“There’s some in central Canada—just in Manitoba,” he said.

But the one in Portage la Prairie was shut down.

“There were design issues,” said Speed.

“McCain (Foods Ltd.) put in a potato plant and it overloaded the system.”

The other deep-shaft sewage treatment plant is in Virden, Manitoba.

“With Virden there were some other problems,” said Speed.

Virden’s deep-shaft system, installed in the late 1970s, only worked for a few years, said Virden’s manager of works and utilities, Cornie Peters, in a previous interview with the News.

Virden is in the process of replacing the system with more conventional sewage treatment, said Peters.

The deep-shaft technology sounded promising, and Virden hoped it would be cheaper to operate, he added.

But it just can’t meet Canada’s waste-effluent standards.

“It’s way over,” said Peters.

Virden’s deep-shaft system can’t even remove the nitrates and phosphates from dish soaps, he said.

“This system is incapable of it.”

Corix wasn’t involved with that project, said Speed.

It was Noram.

Noram has partnered with Corix for the Dawson project.

“Noram would be better able to speak to it, but my understanding is that the (Virden) plant ran fine for the first 20 years of its life, and then there were some maintenance issues,” said Speed.

“I really don’t know the story firsthand.”

The fact that Corix has never built a deep-shaft sewage system is not an issue, said Yukon Public Works project manager Catharine Harwood.

“It’s not a worry to me because it’s a team approach,” she said, from Dawson.

“Noram is such a large partner, and Corix has things Noram doesn’t, so they complement each other.”

Noram’s shoddy track record in Manitoba is not a concern either.

“There are over 500 (deep-shaft) installations around the world,” said Harwood.

“Canadians tend to want to see something in their country because we know what our effluent standards are—we don’t know what the Chinese and Finnish ones are—but that doesn’t mean that the technology can’t be shown that it will do what we require.”

The technology is complex, said Harwood.

“So we can’t just make the blanket statement and say, ‘If it works in Finland, it works in China and in Canada,’ because you need to tailor each system to the place and the permit requirements.”

The deep-shaft technology is flexible, she said.

“It’s not something that rolls off a truck and is plunked down in Dawson; this is something that needs a high level of development, and what we’re going to be doing now is finishing off the design and making sure it matches our needs.”

Whitehorse’s Ketza Construction Corp. was the only other company that bid on the Dawson sewage project.

It proposed a $16.5-million biological treatment plant that uses micro-organisms to digest the contents of sewage.

There are 800 of these biological treatment plants in operation, and 100 of them are in the North.

But the local construction company failed to meet the technical requirements, according to a rejection letter from Public Works.

Ketza, which spent six months and more than $100,000 preparing its bid, immediately appealed the government decision.

“Every week I called to follow up on the appeal,” said Ketza owner Peter Densmore on Tuesday.

And every week, Densmore was told it was being processed.

But on Friday, several months after filing the appeal, Densmore was informed there was a conflict with the appeal board and the process was starting over.

“We have to make sure that the bid-challenge committee is made up of private, upper-sector people who don’t have any conflict in the project,” said Harwood.

Although the deep-shaft system is going to cost $10 million more than the biological treatment plant Ketza proposed, it might save in energy costs.

“It uses up to 50 per cent less energy than a conventional wastewater treatment system, just because of the way air is introduced,” said Speed.

“And with a smaller building footprint, you also end up using less energy.”

The yearly operating costs are estimated at $280,000, said Speed. “And a big chunk of that is the cost of having a city person on staff.”

“It would have been way cheaper to install an MBR system for about $5 million,” said Mike Harkin of Pinnacle Environmental Technologies Inc., a Canadian company that specializes in wastewater treatment.

Harkin installed a sewage treatment system in Eagle Plains last fall.

“Dawson’s not very big,” he said.

With an MBR (membrane biological reactor) system wastewater is cleaned and then pumped into the river.

“It would be cleaner than the river water,” said Harkin.

But the Yukon government didn’t go that route, said Harwood.

Membrane biological reactor technology “produces a very high-quality water,” she said.

“You can produce wastewater that’s drinkable—but that’s not where we are.

“We have a great proposal and a great team and the confidence this is going to go really well.

“I think everyone is excited this is finally moving forward—attempts to derail it or cast aspersions on the evaluation team are unfounded—the Yukon government and the city of Dawson have done a fantastic job managing this project.

“I think it’s just disappointing that people in this small territory like to cast stones.”

Contact Genesee Keevil at


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

Just Posted

Crystal Schick/Yukon News
Calvin Delwisch poses for a photo inside his DIY sauna at Marsh Lake on Feb. 18.
Yukoners turning up the heat with unique DIY sauna builds

Do-it-yourselfers say a sauna built with salvaged materials is a great winter project

Wyatt’s World

Wyatt’s World for March 5, 2021.

Yukonomist: School competition ramps up in the Yukon

It’s common to see an upstart automaker trying to grab share from… Continue reading

The Yukon government responded to a petition calling the SCAN Act “draconian” on Feb. 19. (Yukon News file)
Yukon government accuses SCAN petitioner of mischaracterizing her eviction

A response to the Jan. 7 petition was filed to court on Feb. 19

City councillor Samson Hartland in Whitehorse on Dec. 3, 2018. Hartland has announced his plans to run for mayor in the Oct. 21 municipal election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillor sets sights on mayor’s chair

Hartland declares election plans

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from Public Health Nurse Angie Bartelen at the Yukon Convention Centre Clinic in Whitehorse on March 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
State of emergency extended for another 90 days

“Now we’re in a situation where we see the finish line.”

The Yukon government says it is working towards finding a solution for Dawson area miners who may be impacted by City of Dawson plans and regulations. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Miner expresses frustration over town plan

Designation of claims changed to future planning

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been postponed indefinitely. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
2022 Arctic Winter Games postponed indefinitely

Wood Buffalo, Alta., Host Society committed to rescheduling at a later date

Housing construction continues in the Whistle Bend subdivision in Whitehorse on Oct. 29, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon Bureau of Statistics reports rising rents for Yukoners, falling revenues for businesses

The bureau has published several reports on the rental market and businesses affected by COVID-19

Council of Yukon First Nations grand chief Peter Johnston at the Yukon Forum in Whitehorse on Feb. 14, 2019. Johnston and Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn announced changes to the implementation of the Yukon First Nations Procurement Policy on March 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Third phase added to procurement policy implementation

Additional time added to prep for two provisions

Crews work to clear the South Klondike Highway after an avalanche earlier this week. (Submitted)
South Klondike Highway remains closed due to avalanches

Yukon Avalanche Association recommending backcountry recreators remain vigilant

RCMP Online Crime Reporting website in Whitehorse on March 5. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Whitehorse RCMP launch online crime reporting

Both a website and Whitehorse RCMP app are now available

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is preparing for a pandemic-era election this October with a number of measures proposed to address COVID-19 restrictions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City gets set for Oct. 21 municipal election

Elections procedures bylaw comes forward

Most Read