Upper Liard dump sees influx of garbage

An Upper Liard resident is raising a stink over unwanted garbage at his local landfill. Ron Allen said he's noticed more and more people coming from Watson Lake to dump their trash because it's free.

An Upper Liard resident is raising a stink over unwanted garbage at his local landfill.

Ron Allen said he’s noticed more and more people coming from Watson Lake to dump their trash because it’s free.

“I don’t think it’s right,” he said.

“The town should be responsible for its own garbage. The dump here in Upper Liard is for residents only.”

The influx follows a decision by the town of Watson Lake in the beginning of the year to charge new garbage fees.

Allen said the impact on the landfill is considerable. Non-residents are bringing their trash on a regular basis, even starting fires.

He counted over 60 tires that don’t come from Upper Liard and has seen smoke from the landfill on a number of occasions, he said.

He’s also seen an influx of refrigerators, computers, roofing materials, batteries, stoves and other objects.

When drivers come from Watson Lake, approximately 12 kilometres away, some of their trash blows over and ends up on the side of the road, he said.

“I’m just wondering what’s going on,” he said.

“This started about nine months ago. And about three months ago, someone took down a sign on the fence of the landfill that said it was for locals only.”

Earlier this year, Watson Lake was forced to abandon its practice of burning garbage and upgrade its landfill, which cost approximately $1 million.

Those changes included relocating the recycling depot and building a new storage building to process a greater amount of recyclables.

Now, there is a $20 monthly fee for garbage collection, as well as new tonnage fees.

There is also a two garbage bag limit per week, with every extra bag costing $2.

Watson Lake mayor Richard Durocher said he’s witnessed the problems at Upper Liard himself.

He drove out to the landfill about a week ago and noticed quite a few Watson Lake residents coming in and out, he said.

“We know that people have been bypassing our landfill and heading out to Upper Liard because it’s free,” he said.

“The new plan is a big step for Watson Lake, we burnt our garbage until last year. It’s a steep learning curve.

“We’ve always asked, what’s the need for a landfill 12 kilometres away from the big one in Watson Lake?”

His municipality doesn’t have a problem with becoming a regional landfill, he said, and could achieve that with financial help from the territorial government.

It would be a lot more economical if Watson Lake became a “one-stop shop,” said Durocher.

“I’m sure they’d love to have that off their hands. It just comes down to where we can meet financially.”

The Upper Liard landfill, operated by the territorial government, became a transfer station in early 2012.

A contractor is hired to make weekly visits, take care of maintenance at the site and report any issues.

Most of the waste from the landfill is hauled back to the Whitehorse landfill, which also receives garbage from Carcross, Tagish, Deep Creek, Marsh Lake and Mount Lorne transfer stations.

The transition was part of the Yukon Solid Waste Action Plan, created in 2009.

One of the goals in the plan was to eliminate the open burning of waste by 2012.

Watson Lake was granted at least two extensions on that deadline, and became the last community in the territory to burn its trash.

In late 2012, an official with Yukon’s Department of Community Services said he hoped garbage from Upper Liard would go directly to Watson Lake once the burning stopped.

Although that plan hasn’t materialized, it is still being actively discussed, said Dwayne Muckosky, a director with Community Services.

“We are absolutely interested in exploring opportunities to regionalize services,” he said.

“We have a keen interest in collaborating with the town of Watson Lake to explore whether there could be some synergies and how both levels of government could provide the service in the southeast Yukon.”

Muckosky admitted that “quite a bit” of money goes into the Upper Liard landfill, more than anticipated.

He didn’t specify the exact amount but said that volumes at the site are much higher than anything the department could have projected.

There is a need for some level of service to Upper Liard residents that has to be kept in mind, he added.

He stopped short of saying when garbage from Upper Liard would start going to Watson Lake.

“We’ve had discussions with the town of Watson Lake and we remain committed to partnering with them to pursue this model,” he said.

A public meeting will be held to engage with Upper Liard residents “in the coming weeks,” Muckosky said.

Topics will include how residents can become more involved in the operation of the landfill and the potential for more controls at the site, such as new gates.

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com

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