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