Federal Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau highlights the federal government’s $3.3 million funding contribution for the expansion of the city’s compost facility in during a media briefing at city hall in Whitehorse on July 8. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

New funding aimed at turning waste into ‘black gold’

Money and a contract has been approved for the Whitehorse compost facility expansion

An expanded compost facility at the Whitehorse landfill could be a reality next year after city council voted July 8 to award a nearly $3 million contract for the expansion construction to Castle Rock Enterprises.

The vote came after a formal funding announcement by the federal government earlier in the day at city hall.

There, federal Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau highlighted the federal government’s $3.3 million contribution on behalf of the Infrastructure and Communities Minister François-Philippe Champagne.

“The project we are celebrating today will provide the City of Whitehorse with improved compost management capabilities and a cleaner environment,” Bibeau said.

Also on-hand was Yukon government Community Services Minister John Streicker. The territory will contribute $1.1 million. The city will put $400,000 from gas tax towards the work.

Yukon MP Larry Bagnell and Mayor Dan Curtis also addressed those at the announcement.

While the construction contract is worth $2.99 million, the additional $1.81 million budgeted will be directed at other expenses associated with the project.

In addition to the contract award, council approved a budget increase to $4.8 million, up from the original $2.73 million.

The change came after geotechnical drilling and an assessment done in the summer of 2018 determined there would be a lot more excavation work and granular material needed than originally planned.

An operational assessment followed, determining the aerated concert pad for the compost is best placed where the current processing site is. That means there will be a phased approach to it, “significantly increasing the complexity of the construction project,” according to an administrative report to council.

In addition to the aerated concrete pad are plans for two new stockpile areas and an expanded receiving area.

Before voting with the rest of council in favour of the budget change and contract award, Coun. Laura Cabott said though she supports the project, the discrepancy between the original budget and current cost did raise some concern for her.

The changes to the facility come as the city is expanding its compost collection service to include multi-residential homes and the food service industry.

So far in 2019, 48 commercial compost customers have been added with another 18 set to join the system this month. Multi-residential homes are expected to be online in 2020.

The expanded collection program is anticipated to bring an additional 1,000 tones of compost to the facility. Curtis said there were approximately 2,700 tonnes of compost that made its way there last year.

It typically takes about 18 months between the time material is dropped off and when it heads back out the door as “black gold” as Streicker called it. With the improvements that time is expected to shorten to about 12 months.

Curtis stressed the efforts to move towards 50 per cent waste diversion.

“Now is the time to expand the facility, so that we can manage the increased volume of organic waste, continue exercising responsible environmental sustainability and process our compost,” he said. The city’s compost is certified for organic use.

Operational costs for the expanded facility are not expected to see any major increase, the mayor said.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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