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

Just Posted

Whether the dust jacket of this historical novel is the Canadian version (left) or the American (right), the readable content within is the same. (Michael Gates)
History Hunter: New novel a gripping account of the gold rush

Stampede: Gold Fever and Disaster in the Klondike is an ‘enjoyable and readable’ account of history

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your furnace and your truck need to go

Perhaps the biggest commitment in the NDP deal with the Liberals was boosting the Yukon’s climate target

Awaken Festival organizers Meredith Pritchard, Colin Wolf, Martin Nishikawa inside the Old Firehall in Whitehorse on May 11. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Performing arts fest plans to awaken artistic talent in Whitehorse and the rural North

‘A value of ours is to make theatre as accessible as possible.’

April Mikkelsen tosses a disc during a ladies only disc golf tournament at Solstice DiscGolfPark on May 8. John Tonin/Yukon News
Yukon sees its first-ever women’s disc golf tournament

The Professional Disc Golf Assocation had a global women’s event last weekend. In the Yukon, a women’s only tournament was held for the first time ever.

Dave Blottner, executive director at the Whitehorse Food Bank, said the food bank upped its services because of the pandemic. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Food Bank sees Yukoners’ generosity firsthand

“Businesses didn’t know if they could stay open but they were calling us to make sure we were able to stay open.”

A prescribed burn is seen from the lookout at Range Road and Whistle Bend Way in Whitehorse May 12. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Editorial: Are you ready for a forest fire?

Citizens for a Firesmart Whitehorse have listed some steps for Yukoners to boost safety and awareness

Caribou pass through the Dempster Highway area in their annual migration. A recent decision by the privacy commissioner has recommended the release of some caribou collar re-location data. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News)
Privacy commissioner recommends release of caribou location data

Department of Environment says consultation with its partners needed before it will consider release

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Family pleased youth will be able to get Pfizer vaccine

Angela Drainville, mother of two, is anxious for a rollout plan to come forward

Safe at home office in Whitehorse on May 10, 2021. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Federal government provides $1.6 million for Yukon anti-homelessness work

Projects including five mobile homes for small communities received funding.

Drilling at Northern Tiger’s 3Ace gold project in 2011. Randi Newton argues that mining in the territory can be reshaped. (Yukon government/file)
Editorial: There’s momentum for mining reform

CPAWS’ Randi Newton argues that the territory’s mining legislations need a substantial overhaul

At its May 10 meeting, Whitehorse city council approved the subdivision for the Kwanlin Dün First Nation’s business park planned in Marwell. (Submitted)
KDFN business park subdivision approved

Will mean more commercial industrial land available in Whitehorse

Main Street in Whitehorse on May 4. Whitehorse city council has passed the first two readings of a bylaw to allow pop-up patios in city parking spaces. Third reading will come forward later in May. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Whitehorse council pursuing restaurant patio possibilities

Council passes first two readings for new patio bylaw

Most Read