Hazardous trash flowing into Porcupine River

A decision to reject the Yukon environmental watchdog's advice to close the Old Crow dump has sparked a backlash in the community.

A decision to reject the Yukon environmental watchdog’s advice to close the Old Crow dump has sparked a backlash in the community.

The fly-in village’s 256 citizens put their faith in the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board, which recommended the solid waste facility to be closed early last March.

But the dump will stay open for another three years, the Environment Department decided later that month.

“We in the (lands) department—I can’t speak for the chief and council—are very disappointed with the decision document,” said a First Nation official who works closely with the dump.

“(The decision) does not recognize any of the our comments and it is totally contradictory to the YESAA board recommendations,” said the Vuntut Gwitchin government staffer, who did not want to be named for this article.

“(The decision) totally missed the boat,” he said.

The dump consists of scattered trash piles covering half a square kilometre.

Car batteries, paint cans and gasoline canisters are overflowing from the tiny wooden shed meant to protect them from rain exposure.

Streams of melting water have broken out inside the dump, flowing into the Porcupine River.

“As far as specifics go, it’s in a state of disarray,” said the official.

Old Crow burns a lot of its garbage, like most Yukon communities.

But nowadays there’s just too much to burn, and the piles keep growing.

The Liberal MLA for Old Crow has taken charge.

“My constituents were shocked (by the decision),” said Darius Elias.

Old Crow residents were worried all winter about the spring melt water running through the dump, said Elias.

“There’s a creek running right through this huge pile of waste and it’s flowing right beside hazardous waste,” he said. “It’s basically a mini-disaster area of the first order.”

Elias has written letters to the minister, spoken about it in the legislature and even sent damning pictures to the Environment Department.

“All to no avail,” he said.

A dump can’t be within 100 metres of a river or lake, according to the Environment Act’s solid waste regulations.

In Old Crow, snow-exposed batteries and leaking fuel tanks sit within 25 meters of the Porcupine River, said Elias.

“I tried to raise this issue before the spring melt,” he said. “Now all the water’s run through and it’s gone right into the Porcupine River.”

The burning chamber is within 50 metres of the water, he said.

“My constituents are pretty upset,” said Elias. “This would never be allowed to happen in Whitehorse.”

A pile of wood from torn-down houses has become a fire risk, he said.

“It’s a forest fire waiting to happen.”

A construction boom has created more garbage than usual in the isolated community, said Elias.

A few young people organize a recycling lift once a month and Air North flies it to Whitehorse for free, he said.

But the industrial and hazardous trash isn’t going anywhere.

“We need to move it and build a properly engineered waste facility,” said Elias.

The Dawson environmental assessment board office agreed.

“(The board) recommends to the decision body that the project not be allowed to proceed, as the designated office has determined that project will have significant adverse environmental and socioeconomic effects in or outside the Yukon that cannot be mitigated,” reads the decision document.

The Environment Department rejected the expertise, and opted instead to draw plans for work in 2012.

Environment Minister Elaine Taylor made the decision, said Elias.

That couldn’t be confirmed by press time.

Taylor’s out of the office until Monday, said spokesperson Roxanne Vallevand.

Contact James Munson at

jamesm@yukon-news.com.

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

d
Wyatt’s World

Wyatt’s World for March 5, 2021.

g
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

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

A rendering of the Normandy Manor seniors housing facility. (Photo courtesy KBC Developments)
Work on seniors housing project moves forward

Funding announced for Normandy Manor

Most Read