Haines Junction trashes waste plan

Haines Junction has scrapped its controversial bid to bring a new waste-management system to town.

Haines Junction has scrapped its controversial bid to bring a new waste-management system to town.

“As a result of the financial analysis, council and I have decided not to pursue the purchase of a batch oxidizing system,” wrote Mayor George Nassiopoulos in a letter to residents Wednesday.

“The economics dictate that we shall continue both the landfill and continue with our commitment to composting, recycling, reuse and reduction of waste.”

Three years ago, the council started to investigate the possibility of purchasing a system that’s touted as a clean option for destroying garbage. It would use a technology called gasification.

Gasification burns garbage at a low heat, with little oxygen. Bits of trash start to vapourize and become gas. That gas is then used to blast the remaining garbage at extremely high temperatures.

This process destroys most dangerous chemicals, according to proponents. What’s left is filtered, leaving an exhaust that’s no worse than what comes out of a truck, said Nassiopoulos.

But residents were not convinced that the system was as green and clean as its supporters suggest. Some called it a glorified incinerator.

One resident argued that the science regarding gasification’s safety was inconclusive, and that tiny particles emitted by the machine could have unknown effects.

“Do we want to be the guinea pigs for this?” asked Dave Weir, while the plan was still on the table.

The reason the plan was trashed, however, came down to finances.

The mayor said that the technology is simply too expensive to be considered a viable option.

A study showed that the project would cost $17 million over 25 years, compared with $6.6 million for a new landfill and $8.6 million for a transfer station.

The council still insists that gasification is the best option, environmentally speaking.

“Based on the expert, independent, and scientifically sound review of the health and emissions data undertaken by Santec, we are content that the gasification of waste using a batch oxidizing system is as safe, or safer, than any other form of ‘true waste’ disposal,” Nassiopoulos wrote.

The major cost for operating a gasification plant is the diesel or propane used for fuel. And those, of course, are subject to fluctuating energy prices.

The plant itself was expected to cost $500,000, and that price had already been earmarked in the territory’s 2012-13 portion of the federal Building Canada Fund.

The territory prioritized Haines Junction’s plans because it has been identified as a regional facility, taking in garbage from Beaver Creek to Champagne, said Wes Wirth, director of operations for Community Services.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at