Oil tank farm not fit for residents

There won't be any residential development at the former petroleum tank farm on Hamilton Boulevard. Yukon Pipeline Ltd. has decided to abandon plans to restore the site for a residential subdivision.

There won’t be any residential development at the former petroleum tank farm on Hamilton Boulevard.

Yukon Pipeline Ltd. has decided to abandon plans to restore the site for a residential subdivision.

Instead, it has opted to bring it to a less stringent industrial standard.

And, with that decision, its cleanup efforts are now almost complete.

The Calgary-based National Energy Board delivered its final conditions for the pipeline remediation work this week.

Yukon Pipeline Limited pumped oil from Skagway to Whitehorse through a 144-kilometre-long pipeline for nearly 50 years, after buying the pipeline from the US military.

Since the pipeline’s closing in 1996, the company has spent more than a decade cleaning it up. It’s dismantled most of the 114.7-millimetre pipeline, dug up 750 cubic metres of contaminated soil, treated 1,500 cubic metres of soil on the 56-hectare Hamilton Boulevard site, and performed continuous soil and groundwater testing.

The pipeline’s Carcross pump station and Whitehorse oil tank farm have also been torn down.

Now the company’s last job is to continue soil testing on both sites until the land is clean.

But it’s not likely the Whitehorse site will ever be clean enough to build houses on.

The tank farm, sandwiched between Hillcrest and Valleyview subdivisions, across from the Whitehorse airport, will no longer be restored well enough for residential zoning, as originally intended.

With Whitehorse short of residential land, developers had wanted to turn the area into a 350- to 500-lot subdivision.

But the National Energy Board’s new set of conditions, released Wednesday, effectively puts an end to that option.

Soil vapours from decades of spilled oil and gas on the site was still a concern, making homes impossible.

Now the property will only meet an industrial zoning standard.

Yukon Pipeline Limited, which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of White Pass and Yukon Company Limited, made the decision to lower their cleanup standards to industrial zoning.

The company was not available for comment before press time.

The tank farm once held 24 steel oil tanks that could each hold up to 1,600 cubic metres of petroleum. All structures have been removed and sections of the ground have been treated for spilled hydrocarbons.

The site is above the Yukon River, which still worries the regulator.

Groundwater from the tank farm flows into Baxter’s Gulch, a cavity in the Whitehorse cliffs off the Alaska Highway abutting the airport. The water then flows into Spook Creek and, finally, into the Yukon River.

Yukon Pipeline Ltd. will have to continue soil testing until the downstream water is clean for two straight years.

Groundwater on the tank farm site is not potable, the National Energy Board noted.

Once the final tank farm testing is done, as well as further testing at the Carcross pump station site, the board is off the hook for any future regulation and land management becomes a local responsibility.

Contact James Munson at


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