Old Crow dump in ‘worst location,’ says official

The Old Crow dump is in the "worst location" for a facility of its kind, but cannot be closed because there's nowhere else to store waste in the region, said a Yukon Environment Department official.

The Old Crow dump is in the “worst location” for a facility of its kind, but cannot be closed because there’s nowhere else to store waste in the region, said a Yukon Environment Department official.

Sitting just 50 metres from an inlet running into the Porcupine River, the dump has to stay open for another three years due to geographic constraints until a new spot is found, said Jon Bowen, director of environmental programs at the department.

“There are no alternatives for the Old Crow facility,” said Bowen, who’s name is on a department decision document permitting the site to stay open. The document overturned the Yukon’s Environmental and Socioeconomic Assessment Board’s advice to close the site immediately.

“It’s a bad location,” said Bowen. “It’s the worst location.”

“But Rome wasn’t built in a day, as it were.”

Bowen wasn’t certain how long the dump has been used, but he believes it’s the only waste facility in modern Old Crow history.

The dump has undergone some changes while being allowed to stay open for another three years, he said.

“We’ve had inspectors come in and raise the berms,” said Bowen, referring to barriers meant to keep toxic water from flowing into the Porcupine.

But a lack of funds has hampered the work.

“Obviously money is a concern when you’re doing 30-plus waste facilities at once,” he said.

The dump’s environmental assessment was done between December 2008 and early March 2009, overlapping with over 30 other assessments across the territory for waste-storage facilities.

The assessment brought to light huge deficiencies at the dump site.

Garbage isn’t sorted or put into piles at all, according to a 36-page report by the environmental assessment board’s Dawson office.

The unorganized trash is often tossed into the burn vessel irrespective of its contents, it says.

Batteries, tires, waste oil, paints and other hazardous materials have been stored in sheds, but these are overflowing.

“Due to the fact that there is uncontrolled access to the facility, and no full-time waste segregation and management staff on site, there is opportunity for users to either deliberately or mistakenly dispose of household hazardous wastes in the waste-segregation pile identified as construction debris/brush pile,” says the report.

There is no liner and the dump is susceptible to leaking toxins in the ground. Local wildlife and Porcupine River fish are accumulating those toxins in their bodies.

There were no water studies done in the Porcupine River despite the high risk of leaking, says the report.

But the Porcupine River is eroding more and more every year, it says.

The site will also take a wallop this summer when hydrocarbon-ridden soil will be removed from two other sites in Old Crow, with the contaminated dirt likely going to the dump.

The government decision to close the site also disregarded the opinion of the Vuntut Gwichin First Nation government, the report reveals.

“There are real and potential health risks associated with the burning of domestic, commercial, and demolition waste (at the site,)” reads the government’s submission to the board.

“Contamination of the local soil under the facility is undoubtedly occurring and should be adequately addressed,” it says.

And spring summer runoff may have leaked hazardous chemicals into the Porcupine River, the First Nation government says.

Contact James Munson at

jamesm@yukon-news.com.

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