Yukon government to take over Dawson City’s water treatment plant

The City of Dawson won't be running its much-criticized and often malfunctioning water treatment plant.

The City of Dawson won’t be running its much-criticized and often malfunctioning water treatment plant.

Despite plans for the town to eventually take over the facility, the territorial government announced Tuesday afternoon that it will be the one that owns and operates the plant.

Dawson will now pay the Yukon government a service fee.

“(The city has) expressed significant concerns about taking this on,” said Community Services Minister Currie Dixon.

“It’s a very large, very challenging and complex piece of infrastructure and ultimately we decided that because we have better resources and better capacity to deal with it we determined that Yukon government was better positioned to own and operate the plant than the town of Dawson.”

The facility began operations in the fall of 2012, and the plan was to hand it over to the town a year later.

But Corix, the contractor, had to keep managing the place long afterwards because it could not meet the conditions of the contract.

As of February 2015, the plant finally had three straight months of testing that passed the requirements for its water licence.

That triggered the beginning of a two-year warranty period. Corix will run the plant until 2017.

Dawson Mayor Wayne Potoroka said a memorandum of understanding between the town and the territory laid out the conditions that had to exist before Dawson was in a position to take over the facility. Two of those conditions were that the project be affordable and work properly.

The facility still isn’t working as it should be, Dixon admits.

Right now it is meeting the requirements most of the time but having challenges particularly in the summer months, he said.

On top of that it’s costing more than expected.

“It is working but it’s not working as consistently as was planned and it’s not operating at the costs that we had planned,” Dixon said.

“What we’re doing now is trying to get the operations of the plant fine-tuned, get it working better, more consistently and bring the operating costs down.”

When the plant was being designed, costs were estimated at $380,000 a year, said Jennifer Macgillivray, the Department of Community Services’s director of infrastructure. She cautions that the early number did not consider the cost of having an Outside company run things. It also doesn’t include the correct number of staff, she said.

Still, the costs are much higher. Right now the plant costs $94,000 a month to run. That’s more than $1 million annually.

Macgillivray said the government is covering costs for Corix like staff living allowances, flights and other things that wouldn’t be part of the bill if the place was run locally.

“In the future, what we’re looking at doing is our operations branch will run the project,” she said.

“They’re looking at whether they’re going to hire a contractor or hire in-house. That’s going to be far cheaper than hiring a contractor.”

The department is hiring a cost consultant to break down how the money is being spent.

Meanwhile experts at the plant are still trying to figure out what keeps going wrong.

Throughout the winter months the plant has been meeting its requirements, Macgillivray said.

“The summertime operations are more challenging because the sewage strength coming into the plant is much higher.”

Still, it should be working, she said.

The flow metre that measures the volume has been replaced. A handful of valves that were the incorrect type for the plant are being replaced. All of those changes are covered under the warranty.

If things aren’t running properly by the time the warranty runs out in February 2017 the government has various options, Macgillivray said.

“If they haven’t met the terms of their contract, and the plant can’t produce an effluent that meets the requirements of the regulator, then YG will address this with Corix through the terms of the contract.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean court, she said. The contract requires the two sides start with mediation.

Potoroka said his office hadn’t finished crunching the numbers when it comes to how much the town could afford to pay to run the place, but he feels relieved by the territory’s decision.

“I’m feeling appreciative of the Yukon government for helping us out. If they would have walked away this community would be in some hard times, but they didn’t.”

Contact Ashley Joannou at

ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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

Just Posted

Children’s performer Claire Ness poses for a photo for the upcoming annual Pivot Festival. “Claire Ness Morning” will be a kid-friendly performance streamed on the morning of Jan. 30. (Photo courtesy Erik Pinkerton Photography)
Pivot Festival provides ‘delight and light’ to a pandemic January

The festival runs Jan. 20 to 30 with virtual and physically distant events

The Boulevard of Hope was launched by the Yukon T1D Support Network and will be lit up throughout January. It is aimed at raising awareness about Yukoners living with Type 1 diabetes. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Boulevard of Hope sheds light on Type 1 diabetes

Organizers hope to make it an annual event

City of Whitehorse city council meeting in Whitehorse on Oct. 5, 2020. An updated council procedures bylaw was proposed at Whitehorse city council’s Jan. 18 meeting that would see a few changes to council meetings and how council handles certain matters like civil emergencies. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Whitehorse procedures bylaw comes forward

New measures proposed for how council could deal with emergencies

A Yukon survey querying transportation between communities has already seen hundreds of participants and is the latest review highlighting the territory’s gap in accessibility. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Multiple reports, survey decry lack of transportation between Yukon communities

A Community Travel survey is the latest in a slew of initiatives pointing to poor accessibility

Mobile vaccine team Team Balto practises vaccine clinic set-up and teardown at Vanier Catholic Secondary School. Mobile vaccine teams are heading out this week to the communities in order to begin Moderna vaccinations. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Mobile vaccine teams begin community vaccinations

“It’s an all-of-government approach”

A file photo of grizzly bear along the highway outside Dawson City. Yukon conservation officers euthanized a grizzly bear Jan. 15 that was originally sighted near Braeburn. (Alistair Maitland/Yukon News file)
Male grizzly euthanized near Braeburn

Yukon conservation officers have euthanized a grizzly bear that was originally sighted… Continue reading

Mayor Dan Curtis listens to a councillor on the phone during a city council meeting in Whitehorse on April 14, 2020. Curtis announced Jan. 14 that he intends to seek nomination to be the Yukon Liberal candidate for Whitehorse Centre in the 2021 territorial election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Whitehorse mayor seeking nomination for territorial election

Whitehorse mayor Dan Curtis is preparing for a run in the upcoming… Continue reading

Gerard Redinger was charged under the <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> with failing to self-isolate and failing to transit through the Yukon in under 24 hours. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Man ticketed $1,150 at Wolf Creek campground for failing to self-isolate

Gerard Redinger signed a 24-hour transit declaration, ticketed 13 days later

Yukon Energy, Solvest Inc. and Chu Níikwän Development Corporation are calling on the city for a meeting to look at possibilities for separate tax rates or incentives for renewable energy projects. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Tax changes sought for Whitehorse energy projects

Delegates call for separate property tax category for renewable energy projects

Yukon University has added seven members to its board of governors in recent months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New members named to Yukon U’s board of governors

Required number of board members now up to 17

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your Northern regulatory adventure awaits!

“Your Northern adventure awaits!” blared the headline on a recent YESAB assessment… Continue reading

Yukoner Shirley Chua-Tan is taking on the role of vice-chair of the social inclusion working group with the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences’ oversight panel and working groups for the autism assessment. (Submitted)
Canadian Academy of Health Sciences names Yukoner to panel

Shirley Chua-Tan is well-known for a number of roles she plays in… Continue reading

Most Read