Home is where the hazardous waste is

Storing hazardous waste in the middle of a residential neighbourhood is A-OK, according to the Yukon's Environment Department. As long as you have a permit. And the residents at 15 Maple Street, in Porter Creek, have one.

Storing hazardous waste in the middle of a residential neighbourhood is A-OK, according to the Yukon’s Environment Department.

As long as you have a permit.

And the residents at 15 Maple Street, in Porter Creek, have one.

It was issued by Environment officials.

Trouble is, Whitehorse is not OK with hazardous waste piling up in its residential neighbourhoods.

Neither are the neighbours.

Doug Rutherford, who lives across the street from the residence-cum-hazardous waste storage site, is sick of looking out his window and seeing wrecked cars, tractor-trailers, old batteries, propane tanks and scrap metal.

Another neighbour, next-door to the rogue residence, has complained of oil spills.

When Rutherford took the issue to council in 2009, the city manager told him it can take up to 10 years to have the property cleaned up, he said.

This year, with the property still resembling a junk yard, Rutherford tried his luck at the Department of Environment.

“I contacted the office of the minister to determine if the operation was liable to inspection, as it appeared that there were hazardous wastes on the property,” said Rutherford.

The response floored him.

The minister’s executive assistant said it was OK for there to be hazardous waste stored on the property because he had a permit, said Rutherford.

“The permit had been issued with no public hearing or notification,” he added.

In addition, there are no provisions for suspending a hazardous waste storage permit, even though it was issued in a residential area, said Rutherford.

“The territory seems to not require checking the appropriate nature of the site as part of the permitting process,” he said.

City bylaw manager Dave Pruden is equally baffled.

“I don’t know why YTG issued that permit,” he said.

“We’ve asked them not to issue those permits in residential areas.”

The city has been battling with the property owner and the tenant of 15 Maple since 2009.

“We’ve been trying to get them to clean up their property,” said Pruden.

“They’ve been convicted in court and have various court orders they do not abide by.”

Over the last year, the city has finished drafting up final documentation to force the owner and tenant to clean up the property.

Trouble is, the city can’t find them.

“We’ve been looking for them for about a year,” said Pruden.

The renter was in BC. And the owner, who is a relative of the renter, was in Alberta, the US, Whitehorse, then back in Alberta, he said.

“We can’t hammer down where they are,” said Pruden. “We always seem to be a couple steps behind them.”

If the city doesn’t find the tenant and owner in the next few weeks, it’s going to go in and clean up the property itself, said Pruden.

“Even though YTG issued them a hazardous waste permit, it doesn’t mean they can do that – it’s against the zoning bylaw.”

At the same time, “The city can’t supersede YTG,” added Pruden.

In the past, hazardous-waste permit applications were not formally assessed for compliance with city zoning regulations, wrote Environment spokesman Dennis Senger in an email.

“Environment staff have no authority to interpret or enforce such regulations,” he said.

But now, things have changed.

“Our internal procedures have now been modified so that we will seek the input of the appropriate zoning officials when processing an application for a permit in a residential zone,” wrote Senger.

Also, just because a resident has a permit doesn’t mean they don’t have to comply with all other applicable laws or bylaws, he wrote.

And other agencies, including the city, “are still able to enforce their laws/bylaws as per their normal procedures regardless of whether an Environment Act permit is in place.”

Cancelling a permit is not easy, wrote Senger.

“This involves allowing the permittee to tell their side of the story before a decision is made. This process takes time; there are no shortcuts.

“This is necessary in order to protect permittees; otherwise, government officials could potentially suspend or cancel a permit without knowing all the facts.”

The city’s next step is to send a registered letter to the owner and renter.

“They will have 15 days to dispute it, then we will go in and clean it up,” said Pruden.

Until that happens, Rutherford prefers to remain “blissfully ignorant” of the hazardous waste leaking into the soil in his neighbourhood.

Contact Genesee Keevil at


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

Just Posted

Children’s performer Claire Ness poses for a photo for the upcoming annual Pivot Festival. “Claire Ness Morning” will be a kid-friendly performance streamed on the morning of Jan. 30. (Photo courtesy Erik Pinkerton Photography)
Pivot Festival provides ‘delight and light’ to a pandemic January

The festival runs Jan. 20 to 30 with virtual and physically distant events

The Boulevard of Hope was launched by the Yukon T1D Support Network and will be lit up throughout January. It is aimed at raising awareness about Yukoners living with Type 1 diabetes. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Boulevard of Hope sheds light on Type 1 diabetes

Organizers hope to make it an annual event

City of Whitehorse city council meeting in Whitehorse on Oct. 5, 2020. An updated council procedures bylaw was proposed at Whitehorse city council’s Jan. 18 meeting that would see a few changes to council meetings and how council handles certain matters like civil emergencies. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Whitehorse procedures bylaw comes forward

New measures proposed for how council could deal with emergencies

A Yukon survey querying transportation between communities has already seen hundreds of participants and is the latest review highlighting the territory’s gap in accessibility. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Multiple reports, survey decry lack of transportation between Yukon communities

A Community Travel survey is the latest in a slew of initiatives pointing to poor accessibility

Mobile vaccine team Team Balto practises vaccine clinic set-up and teardown at Vanier Catholic Secondary School. Mobile vaccine teams are heading out this week to the communities in order to begin Moderna vaccinations. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Mobile vaccine teams begin community vaccinations

“It’s an all-of-government approach”

A file photo of grizzly bear along the highway outside Dawson City. Yukon conservation officers euthanized a grizzly bear Jan. 15 that was originally sighted near Braeburn. (Alistair Maitland/Yukon News file)
Male grizzly euthanized near Braeburn

Yukon conservation officers have euthanized a grizzly bear that was originally sighted… Continue reading

Mayor Dan Curtis listens to a councillor on the phone during a city council meeting in Whitehorse on April 14, 2020. Curtis announced Jan. 14 that he intends to seek nomination to be the Yukon Liberal candidate for Whitehorse Centre in the 2021 territorial election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Whitehorse mayor seeking nomination for territorial election

Whitehorse mayor Dan Curtis is preparing for a run in the upcoming… Continue reading

Gerard Redinger was charged under the <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> with failing to self-isolate and failing to transit through the Yukon in under 24 hours. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Man ticketed $1,150 at Wolf Creek campground for failing to self-isolate

Gerard Redinger signed a 24-hour transit declaration, ticketed 13 days later

Yukon Energy, Solvest Inc. and Chu Níikwän Development Corporation are calling on the city for a meeting to look at possibilities for separate tax rates or incentives for renewable energy projects. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Tax changes sought for Whitehorse energy projects

Delegates call for separate property tax category for renewable energy projects

Yukon University has added seven members to its board of governors in recent months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New members named to Yukon U’s board of governors

Required number of board members now up to 17

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your Northern regulatory adventure awaits!

“Your Northern adventure awaits!” blared the headline on a recent YESAB assessment… Continue reading

Yukoner Shirley Chua-Tan is taking on the role of vice-chair of the social inclusion working group with the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences’ oversight panel and working groups for the autism assessment. (Submitted)
Canadian Academy of Health Sciences names Yukoner to panel

Shirley Chua-Tan is well-known for a number of roles she plays in… Continue reading

Most Read