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Flooding mess forces dump reopening

Wreckage in the wake of June's flooding has forced the reopening of the Upper Liard dump. Beginning in January, the dump site began a transition towards becoming a transfer station for household waste.

Wreckage in the wake of June’s flooding has forced the reopening of the Upper Liard dump.

Beginning in January, the dump site began a transition towards becoming a transfer station for household waste and recyclables.

Those materials are being moved to Whitehorse for processing, because a deal has not yet been struck with the Town of Watson Lake.

The dumping of garbage at Upper Liard stopped a few months ago.

That changed after flooding in June damaged 15 properties in the subdivision, causing an estimated $2 million in damage to the structures alone.

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The Watson Lake dump has turned away contractors carrying waste from the flooding, said Stephen Conway, the town’s chief administrative officer.

That dump has not accepted industrial waste for around a year as they plan an overhaul of their waste management programs.

As a result, waste is once again being dumped into the Upper Liard site.

Fortunately, the remediation work had not yet been completed, so it was easy to accommodate the extra waste, said Wes Wirth with Yukon Community Services.

Once the wreckage from the flood has been dealt with, cleanup of the site will continue and it will resume its status as a transfer station only, Wirth said.

With the closure of the Upper Liard dump and the restrictions at the Watson Lake dump, construction and mining companies have either had to pay for shipping to Whitehorse or leave industrial waste lying in limbo.

Capacity problems at the Watson Lake site have been coming for a long time. A 2007 report estimated that the lifespan of the dump might be only three or four years.

In 2003, the town released a report stating its intention to stop open burning of garbage, which poses potential health threats, within two years.

Despite the fact that this intention has been reiterated in subsequent reports, open burning in the dump has continued to this day, due to the capacity issues.

The territorial government eventually stepped in and mandated that the town stop burning garbage before January 2012.

The town has since requested, and been granted, two extensions on the deadline, first to July 2012, and now to October 2012.

Two lots adjacent to the dump, currently owned by the Yukon government, have been set aside for potential expansion, but the town has not yet moved on those properties, said Conway.

They are hoping to make the most of the existing dump capacity by diverting waste.

That means reducing, reusing, recycling and composting.

Only five per cent of Watson Lake’s garbage is currently recycled, according to a 2009 report, however 95 per cent of the waste is compostable or recyclable.

By the end of this year the town hopes that they will have curb-side pickup for recycling and compost, and a per-bag fee for garbage pickup.

“We have to,” said Mayor Richard Durocher.

Within three years, the town expects that at least 70 per cent of garbage will be diverted, and that “A diversion figure of up to 90 per cent is feasible,” according to a 2012 report.

The Yukon government has given the town $520,000 to upgrade the landfill site for recycling.

Watson Lake hopes to release a detailed waste management plan by the end of this year.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at