Oil spills under Dawson

Oil has been spilling underneath a Dawson City building for an undetermined period of time.

Oil has been spilling underneath a Dawson City building for an undetermined period of time.

A cracked pipe has been leaching diesel into the soil under the Korbo Building, a low-income housing apartment complex in downtown Dawson.

Authorities are collecting diesel in culverts dug around the building, but won’t say how big the plume is.

“It’s hard to measure so I don’t want to give numbers like that because it may be misleading,” said Ron Brown, director of housing operations for the Yukon Housing Corporation, which owns the building.

Firefighters have checked the Yukon River for trace amounts of oil and city workers are keeping tabs on sewage and sanitary drains.

So far, oil has only been found on the property, situated on 6th Avenue.

The spill originated from a cracked pipe connecting the building’s 2,000-gallon oil tank to its heating system.

Culverts dug around the tank have been collecting most of the oil.

“It looks to be contained to where the fuel tank is,” said Kurt Neunherz, an environmental scientist from Access Mining Consulting, a group hired to monitor the spill.

“One of the culverts in the front doesn’t have much fuel in it.”

An underground sump installed during the Korbo’s construction is helping contain the spill, said Neunherz.

The sump, a perforated pipe that contains liquid in the soil, surrounds the property.

“We’re hoping that we caught it,” he said.

But the topography beneath the building looks like it flows from the back to the front, he said.

Over a dozen bore holes are being dug today to determine how the water table flows and where the plume might be growing, he said.

“If product is detected, we’re hoping to move that as well,” he said.

Despite the containers removing oil from the site, Neunherz wouldn’t say either how much oil has been removed.

“I don’t know how much they’ve been taking off-site before I got here,” he said.

Some of the oil is coming into the culverts as a sludge, while some of it can be reused, he said.

“The fuel we’re recovering is almost as clean as you would put in the tank.”

Arctic Backhoe is transporting some of the diesel back to Whitehorse today.

“Some is more of a sludge so you can’t really burn it,” said Neunherz.

The spill was discovered on October 1 when the fuel company noticed the tank required too much fuel.

“We ran out of fuel sooner than we should have and thought it was strange,” said Brown.

After the company stopped the fill-up, a hole was dug around the piping and a crack in an elbow was discovered.

“It was installed to code in the day, but through the freeze and frost it must have cracked,” said Neunherz.

A full remediation strategy will have to be drawn up and approved by Environment Yukon, he said.

The Korbo building is a two-floor structure with 13 suites for low-income earners.

“We’re doing everything we can in an unfortunate situation,” said Brown.

Contact James Munson at jamesm@yukon-news.com

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