Tough luck, lungs: Yukon communities will keep burning garbage

Burning garbage may cause DNA mutations and birth defects, but Yukon communities will burn garbage anyway. The territorial government announced it would continue the practice on February 23. In doing so, it rejected the be

Burning garbage may cause DNA mutations and birth defects, but Yukon communities will burn garbage anyway.

The territorial government announced it would continue the practice on February 23.

In doing so, it rejected the best advice of Environment Canada, the Yukon Environmental Socio-economic Assessment Board and more than a dozen community members and councils.

Rather than ceasing burning “immediately,” as recommended by the assessment board, the government needs three years to find “other” ways of getting rid of garbage.

There is no “legislative prohibition on burning solid waste,” noted the government in its written justification.

Keeping garbage alight contradicts the Yukon’s own air emissions regulations, which prevent “release of any air contaminant (that will) cause actual or imminent harm to public health or safety.”

“Potential health effects caused by inhaling contaminates range from relatively minor impacts, such as respiratory irritation, headaches and cough, to more serious health impacts, including asthma, cancer and advanced mortality in those already suffering serious illness,” noted assessment board recommendations.

Impaired mental functions and compromised reproductive systems were also cited.

“Toxic emissions can be experienced while driving by the (Carcross dump) to the point of causing extreme breathing discomfort and can also be smelled as far as 10 kilometres away at Crag Lake when the wind is in a suitable direction,” said Jim Schaefer, a councillor with the South Klondike Local Advisory Council, in a letter to the assessment board.

“Smoke (from the Deep Creek dump) can be seen and smelt; it can burn the eyes and throats even when one is located a few kilometres downwind of the facility,” wrote Deep Creek resident Ken Nordin.

“During calm days and in the winter when an inversion is present, the noxious smoke is trapped at ground level and it is impossible not to breathe it,” added Nordin.

Fumes from the Ross River dump “settle in the community in the evening,” wrote the Ross River Dena Council.

Carcross resident Theo Stad described the toxic emissions with a level of detail befitting a fine wine.

“A putrid, incredibly rank-smelling smoke billows up when fires are first lit and then, a lingering bluish, smelly smoke rises from the dump and lingers for days and days – sending highly toxic chemicals and pollutants into the air and environment,” Stad wrote.

Stopping waste burning would be too expensive, reported the Yukon government as far back as January.

“Current estimates are that a change from burning facilities to landfills can increase operating costs by 10 to 30 times,” wrote Yukon government environment analyst Pat Paslawski in comments submitted to the assessment board.

“It is my opinion that these rationales do not decrease the effect of air emissions on the environment and people,” wrote Russell McDiarmid, an assessment officer with the Yukon Environmental Socio-economic Assessment Board.

Environment Canada came down strongly against the Yukon’s solid waste burning, calling it “unacceptable.”

“Prohibiting burning hazardous wastes is absolutely necessary,” said Environment Canada assessment officer Doug Davidge in a January 9 letter.

Contact Tristin Hopper

at tristinh@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Yukon RCMP say they’ve received three reports of youth being extorted online. (Black Press file)
Yukon youth being extorted online

Yukon youth being extorted online Yukon RCMP say they’ve received three reports… Continue reading

Fines for contravening the fire ban start at $1,150 and could go as high as $100,000. File photo
Yukon campgrounds will open on May 1 this year. (Black Press file)
Yukon campgrounds to open early

Yukon campgrounds will open on May 1 this year. The early opening… Continue reading

A Housing First building on Fifth Avenue and Wood Street will be taken over by the Council of Yukon First Nations and John Howard Society later this month. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
CYFN, John Howard Society take over downtown Housing First residence

The organizations have pledged culturally appropriate service for its many Indigenous residents

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. Politicians return for the spring sitting of the assembly March 4. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Analysis: What to expect in spring sitting of the legislature

They’re back on March 4, but election speculation is looming large

d
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for March 3, 2021.

A rendering of the Normandy Manor seniors housing facility. (Photo courtesy KBC Developments)
Work on seniors housing project moves forward

Funding announced for Normandy Manor

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Most Read