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Fixing Dawson City's sewage plant could prove pricey

It could cost millions of dollars to fix the problems with the Dawson wastewater treatment plant, according to one assessment report.

It could cost millions of dollars to fix the problems with the Dawson wastewater treatment plant, according to one assessment report.

An engineer’s report from last September suggests the Yukon government needs to conduct a comprehensive review of different ways to fix the plant, which has so far been unable to meet the terms of its water licence in the summer.

“If left unresolved, the plant will continue to be non-compliant during the months of June to September,” according to the report from Stantec Consulting.

The report does not pinpoint exactly what’s preventing the plant from meeting water quality tests. But it does note all the work that has been done to try and get the treatment stage to work properly.

“However, after three consecutive summers of poor TSS (total suspended solids) reduction performance, it is time to examine more substantial process modifications.”

The Stantec report suggests two options. The first would be to add a third step in the filtration process. Including an extra step would mean expanding the building so that there’s more space and adding more pumps.

It would cost “in the range of $5 to $8 million, but would ensure compliance with the water licence.”

A second option is to replace a piece of equipment known as a flotation clarifier. It helps separate sewage sludge from the water using air, so the waste can be skimmed off the top. The government could swap out that equipment for a more compact solids separation process using membranes, the report says.

The change would cost between $7 and $10 million.

“The above suggestions are only a few of the potential options that could be implemented at the facility in order to allow the plant to consistently meet the terms of the water licence,” the report says.

“It is recommended that a comprehensive review be conducted to determine what the best, and most economically sustainable option would be for the enhancement of the plant.”

The Department of Community Services did not answer questions about whether a review like this is underway in time for today’s deadline.

The department is hiring a cost consultant to review the project and break down how money is being spent.

The plant was first opened in the autumn of 2012. The contractor, Corix, was supposed to hand over the operation to Dawson within a year.

But the plant has not been meeting its water licence requirements and Corix has continued to run the facility.

This week, the Department of Community Services and Dawson announced the plant was too expensive and unreliable for the municipality to take over.

Right now it costs Community Services $94,000 a month to run. In February 2015 the plant finally had three consecutive months of clean tests. That triggered Corix’s warranty on the equipment. The warranty expires this time next year.

Community Services has said the flow metre that measures the volume in the plant has been replaced. Valves that were the incorrect type for the plant are also being replaced. All of those changes are covered under the warranty.

It’s not clear whether the changes proposed by Stantec would void the warranty with Corix. The Department of Highways and Public Works, which signed off on the $25-million project, and Community Services have both so far refused to make the contract public.

“We have a duty to maintain confidentiality of any personal or confidential information, so we ask that you submit an (access-to-information) request,” community services spokesperson Bonnie Venton Ross said in an email.

“This will ensure that we can process your request most appropriately and maintain the necessary standards of confidentiality if they apply.”

Contact Ashley Joannou at