A bulldozer levels piles of garbage at the Whitehorse landfill in January 2012. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)

A bulldozer levels piles of garbage at the Whitehorse landfill in January 2012. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)

Rural dump closures and tipping fees raise concern from small communities

The government has said the measures are a cost-cutting necessity

Closures of certain community dumps and raised fees on others is drawing ire from some in rural Yukon.

“We just want communication about what’s going on,” said Collin Gray, who relies on the Silver City dump to dispose of waste. “Like, why are you doing this? Why are you charging? They’re saying it’s too expensive to operate. Well, one truck coming out of Whitehorse to pick up the garbage is a lot better than 30 or 50 people driving an extra half an hour or an hour to go out there.”

Gray said he is concerned that the closure, planned for April 2021, of the Silver City dump will result in more illegal dumping in the area. He said the closure will also mean an increased risk of human-wildlife conflict, garbage burning and wildfires.

“We live with the largest population of grizzly bears in the world. So, none of it makes any sense to us,” he said.

In 2018, the government said it was considering the changes as a cost-saving measure.

The landfills in Braeburn, Silver City, Keno and Johnson’s Crossing are set to shut down when Regional Agreements are signed with the closest municipalities. New tipping fees are being implemented based on fees at the nearest municipality.

The government said inconsistent fees resulted in “dump shopping” and municipal taxpayers contributing more to growing waste management costs.

Fines for illegal dumping will increase from $200 to up to $10,000.

The changes were endorsed by the Association of Yukon Communities.

“Yukon’s current solid waste management system is not financially or environmentally sustainable and it is time to do some of the heavy lifting,” said Community Services Minister John Streicker in 2019. “Together with our municipal partners, we are moving towards a user pay, regional waste management system, which will level the playing field and ensure that all Yukoners pay a similar cost to dispose of their waste.”

Since then, the fees have begun to be imposed and a number of rural residents said they are frustrated with the situation.

Gray has started a petition asking the Silver City landfill to stay open and has collected 70 signatures as of April 8.

The issue was brought up in the spring legislature by Kluane MLA Wade Ischenko.

“A number of concerns were raised around our local dumps and transfer stations. Tipping fees have been implemented on rural users to complement — you know, of course, there are already higher taxes,” he sad. “[The Silver City dump] needs to stay there.”

Last month the Keno City Residents’ Council sent a letter to the leaders of all three parties, echoing the MLA’s concerns about rural dumps and demanding that unincorporated municipalities are heard in decision-making.

“We learned [three] years ago that the transfer station was slated for future closure, despite our best efforts to open a dialogue and to present data and information contrary to those put forward by YG. We believe that YG staff have cherry-picked the statistics to justify the decision,” reads the letter.

Like Gray, the council believes that the government underestimated the amount of people who use the dump, including tourists, campers, miners and hunters.

The letter also points out that seniors will now need to travel 120 kilometres round-trip to dispose of garbage, and the more frequent trips will burn more fossil fuels.

Following the letter, Amber Smith, a member of the council, said the Yukon Government has offered to purchase up to 40 waste and recycling bins for the town, along with a trailer to haul the waste to Mayo, but no budget has been proposed for a contractor to handle the job.

“We’re hopeful that our transfer station will remain with a minority Liberal government,” she said.

Contact Haley Ritchie at haley.ritchie@yukon-news.com

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