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Yukon’s Dawson City exploring lagoons to replace troubled wastewater plant

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Dawson City and the Yukon government are in the early stages of creating a plan to replace its problematic seven-year-old wastewater plant with a new sewage lagoon.

Yukon officials announced last year that the $30-million facility would likely be shut by 2026, and recently the Dawson town council voted to move forward with exploring the sewage lagoon option.

“If space allows an unaerated lagoon might be considered but if space is limited or a smaller footprint is required then an aerated lagoon will be looked at,” Dawson City staff stated in a report to council. “The project team is comfortable that [a] lagoon is the preferred process for lower operation costs, ease of construction, and the history and ongoing performance of lagoons across the north,” the report added.

Dawson City’s current wastewater facility, which uses a vertical Vertreat treatment system to treat sewage in an aerated shaft that extends 90 metres below ground, has cost nearly $1 million per year to operate. By comparison, the nearby City of Whitehorse’s sewage lagoon, which serves a much larger population, only costs between $100,000 – $200,000 per year to manage. Additionally, comparable plants in Alaska cost three times less to manage than Dawson City’s.

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Immediately after Dawson City’s plant went into operation it failed to meet water quality standards through testing. It continued to fail tests for nearly two years.

Last January, the plant’s continuing struggles appeared to reach a tipping point.

“This plant has been a costly endeavour for Dawson City and Yukon,” the Minister of Community Services, John Streicker, announced at the time. “It has never operated the way it was intended to, and as Dawson grows the challenges of maintaining the facility will become even more difficult. We are committed to working with the City of Dawson to develop a sustainable wastewater treatment option,” added Streicker.

There is no direct timeline as of yet for Dawson City’s exploration of sewage lagoons.

Check out Yukon’s 2019 water and wastewater sector report available here.

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