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Keno City water supply cut off due to well damage

Water is being trucked to Keno City from Mayo after the community's well was accidentally cut off during routine cleaning last Friday.

Water is being trucked to Keno City from Mayo after the community’s well was accidentally cut off during routine cleaning last Friday.

Whitehorse-based Midnight Sun Drilling was in Keno last week to scrape down and clean the column of the well, which supplies water to most of the community’s homes and businesses.

While the contractor was drilling into the well, the bedrock shifted and blocked off access to water in the bottom of the well, said Dwayne Muckosky, director of community operations with the Department of Community Services.

“Bedrock at times can be a bit unstable,” he said. “The well is still a very good well. There’s still water there. We’re just not able to drop the pump down in there.”

Water is delivered by truck from the well to Keno residents two or three times a week. The last delivery before the accident went out on Friday, which means residents had enough water to get through the weekend.

The only business in town to be affected by the interruption was the local laundromat, which had to shut down over the weekend, according to Mike Mancini, president of the Keno Community Club.

Water deliveries from Mayo will be made three times per week until the Keno well can be repaired, likely in a couple of weeks, said Muckosky.

Mancini said the government seems to have the situation under control, but added that the incident came as a surprise to the community.

“It was just supposed to be a routine cleaning up of the well,” he said. “I think everybody involved was a bit shocked.”

Despite the damage, Muckosky said the well doesn’t need to be replaced.

“The well will remain perfectly functional,” he said. “The water is still very good.”

Instead, the contractor is going back to install a liner in the lower portion of the well that will “permanently prevent this type of blockage.”

Muckosky said the higher portions of the well are already lined, but because the lower part went through bedrock, a liner wasn’t deemed necessary. He said it’s unusual for bedrock to shift.

The Keno well was drilled in 1987 and is over 300 feet deep. But Muckosky said the age of the well is irrelevant.

“There was no reason to think that something like this would happen,” he said. “Wells don’t typically have structural issues. We haven’t seen this type of issue before.”

He added that the contractor is not to blame for the incident.

Dirk Rentmeister, owner of Keno’s Silvermoon Bunkhouse, said he’s hopeful the problem will be fixed soon.

“Water is a right, not a commodity,” he said. “We’re hoping that things get resolved quickly. We’re optimistic.”

Keno City’s water supply made news in 2012, when dangerous levels of cadmium and zinc were found in groundwater near the community, likely due to contamination from the historic Onek mine.

At the time, tests found the community’s drinking water was safe. Muckosky said the well water continues to meet Canadian drinking water guidelines.

Contact Maura Forrest at