Ross River lagoon leaking ammonia

A Ross River sewage facility that has been awaiting replacement since 2003 is now leaking ammonia at nearly twice the allowable rate, according to a recent report.

A Ross River sewage facility that has been awaiting replacement since 2003 is now leaking ammonia at nearly twice the allowable rate, according to a recent report.

The report shows that ammonia was measured twice last August, at 39 and 40 milligrams per litre. The highest level allowed by the site’s water licence is 20 mg/L. All groundwater testing near the site found that the ammonia was within the allowed limit.

According to the World Health Organization, high levels of ammonia is an important indicator of faecal contamination.

“The groundwater monitoring would appear to suggest that it is coming from the septic pit … It’s common to see a certain amount of ammonia leaching from a wastewater treatment facility,” said Dwayne Muckosky, Yukon’s director of community operations and programs.

Even though it may be common, the Department of Community Services is working with the “appropriate regulatory agencies,” to fix it and come back into compliance with the water licence, he said, adding that it poses no risk to the community’s water supply.

“Public health and safety is the most important consideration for us. We’re working with the water board and all affected stakeholders, we’re working collaboratively to develop a plan to move forward,” he said.

When the water licence was issued in 2003, it required that a new sewage lagoon be built by 2005. That still has not happened, but Community Services is working on it that, too, Muckosky said.

“That’s what we’re working towards now. We’ve hired a consultant and an engineering firm that’s helping us develop options. There were options that were looked at in the early 2000s, but there was some concern about the location that had been identified for a new sewage lagoon,” Muckosky said.

The report, which looked into water quality and testing at the sewage disposal facility and community water supply well in Ross River, found that, in addition to the leaking ammonia, no engineering inspection or sludge measurements had been done at the sewage pit in 2011, even though the water licence requires that both be done annually.

“We didn’t fulfill all the reporting requirements last year, but we’re working with the appropriate regulatory agencies to bring ourselves into compliance. We’re mostly looking forward to building infrastructure to bring ourselves into compliance with that licence,” Muckosky said.

Brad Cathers, who received the Community Services portfolio on Monday, could not be reached for comment by press time.

Contact Jesse Winter at jessew@yukon-news.com

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