Soil contamination delays opening of new Salvation Army shelter

Fuel contamination downtown has delayed the opening of Whitehorse’s new Salvation Army facility.

Fuel contamination downtown has delayed the opening of Whitehorse’s new Salvation Army facility.

The project was first announced in April 2015. The new facility, at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Black Street, was expected to open by the fall of 2016.

The health department now says the construction work won’t be done until April and the doors will open sometime after that.

The Yukon government agreed to spend $10.2 million on the project to replace the old, much smaller building nearby.

A statement from the health department says it always knew the site was going to need work to clean up the soil. It used to be a gas station and automotive repair shop.

“Initial soil remediation was undertaken in late September 2015, however after testing it was determined that further remediation was required in one location,” spokesperson Pat Living wrote in an email.

That extra work happened in early October 2015. Details about exactly how much contamination was found at the site were not available by deadline.

There’s also no word on how much the delays have cost the government. Public works spokesperson Doris Wurfbaum said the total cost was still being calculated but the project is within budget.

Environment Yukon staff will be monitoring the groundwater at the site for at least the next five years.

All the contaminated soil on the property has been removed and the groundwater below the site isn’t moving, Living said.

Adding to the delays, Living said, construction crews found hazardous material, including asbestos, during demolition.

Part of the project also had to be redesigned. A new system was added under the building as a precautionary measure to protect the building in case the groundwater ever becomes contaminated, according to the Department of Highways and Public Works.

Once construction is complete, the new facility will be turned over to the Salvation Army. The old Salvation Army shelter downtown is expected to be sold.

The new digs are significantly larger than what the shelter has been functioning with to-date.

The building is expected to have 25 emergency beds and 22 transitional housing beds.

The current shelter has 14 beds, and often operates at 200 per cent capacity, with additional mats placed on the floor in common areas, officials said when the project was first announced.

Typically with emergency shelters, clients are expected to leave first thing in the morning, and take any belongings with them.

In transitional housing, clients will have their own space, where they can keep their own things.

Stays typically range from three months to a year, officials said at the time.

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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