LETTER: In defense of transfer stations from Keno City

Greetings from Keno City,

As a resident and local volunteer, I feel compelled to write about YG’s proposed closures of the Keno City, Silver City, Johnson’s Crossing and Braeburn transfer stations. With only volunteers, Keno has maintained an ongoing dialogue with YG about the important and necessary needs of our residents. Currently, the most critical of our concerns is the imminent loss of our transfer station.

We learned three years ago that the transfer station was slated for future closure, despite our best efforts to dialogue and to present data/information contrary to that of YG. We believe that YG staff have cherry-picked the statistics to justify the decision. We believe our data makes the case for keeping our transfer station open.

This government has in every situation, stubbornly resisted any input from residents and always refuses to change a decision which always reduces services and infrastructure. Keno believes that the smaller, heritage communities in the Yukon have been deliberately ignored, improperly consulted (if at all) and had their infrastructures and residents grossly neglected. We hope to join with other small heritage communities to expose flaws in this government’s approach and treatment of our communities. We also believe that most Yukoners recognize these communities are a big part of the Yukon’s attraction and need support and recognition.

As recently as August 26, 2021, Keno residents met with Minister of Community Services, Richard Mostyn. We hoped to engage on the transfer station issue but Mr. Mostyn’s opening to us that “Keno is expensive”, indicated to us we weren’t going to sway YG’s decision.

When asked point blank the future of our transfer station, he told us YG is moving forward with the regional model of solid waste management and our transfer station will close. This was a replay of the community visit we had in May 2019. Residents were very vocal in that meeting about the basis of the government’s numbers. They grossly underestimate the number of facility users and fail to account for tourists, campers, placer miners, hunters, users along the Silver Trail Highway and Keno residents.

YG has not factored in that our population swells with RAW-TV and junior exploration companies who call Keno home for six months of the year. Other concerns expressed over the closure: challenges for seniors and the distance/condition of the mostly gravel road that must be travelled to Mayo (120 km return).

Making seniors travel frequently to Mayo to dispose of garbage does not support YG’s Aging In Place strategy. Multi-vehicle trips do not support a reduction of environmental impacts or a reduction of environmental risk. It increases them. Environmental risk and liability are cited as reasons why our transfer station needs to close, yet dry stack tailings have been permitted to come right to the perimeter of our transfer station.

Keno is very concerned with the illegal dumping that will result from our transfer station’s closure and the increased wildlife interactions which will result from residents storing garbage on their property. YG has offered little guidance on how these risks can be mitigated (though they have offered us more bins). Minister Mostyn has recently suggested in the Yukon News that elderly carpools hold the key to solving these complex issues.

Keno seriously questions YG’s methodology and data on the true costs of operating our transfer station. Firstly, the population count is inaccurate. Secondly, YG’s costing for Keno is based on hauling our garbage to Whitehorse (463.9km, one-way). But if regionalization is the goal, why are Keno’s bins not hauled to Dawson which is 287.4km one-way? And why are bedroom communities like Marsh Lake, 55 km from Whitehorse with residents travelling there every day for work, groceries and gas not being asked to carpool their garbage to Whitehorse’s facility? Could it be because Marsh Lake is in Minister Streicker’s riding? Thirdly, the monitoring costs ($28,248) cited are for a site that served as a landfill and was decommissioned. This monitoring apparently must be done even after closing our transfer station so there is no saving of this cost then.

Like Johnson’s Crossing, reanalysis of the data shows Keno’s costs are significantly lower and lower than other transfer stations not slated for closure. Further, we demand to know how shuttering 4 facilities (Johnson’s Crossing, Keno, Silver City and Braeburn) will somehow solve the sustainability issue and put the Liberals in the black? Lastly, Keno takes great exception with the committee that authored the Solid Waste Management:Vision for a Sustainable Model for Yukon Communities Report (2016) as it was comprised entirely of YG personnel and members of the Association of Yukon Communities. Not one committee member was from an unincorporated community and the results of this are evident.

We now call on the Yukon parties to state a clear communication, infrastructure and services policy for the small heritage communities in the Yukon. Enough of the empty words:

“Strong community partnerships should be built on the recognition that local governments and citizens are best-placed to understand their own concerns and develop their own solutions. As Government, Yukon Liberals promise to work with communities to address their key infrastructure deficits, build their economies, and develop their business, industrial and human capacity in a manner they have identified.” (https://www.ylp.ca/all_communities_matter)

“Support necessary investments in basic community infrastructure that is needed to support communities and industry” (https://www.ylp.ca/economic_and_infrastructure_development)


Amber Smith

Letters to the editor