People in Fort McPherson who rely on the Tetlit Co-op for their home heating fuel and gas are in a tight spot. Both supplies were diluted accidentally, and need to be replaced.
The issue stems from a mix-up in Whitehorse where the supplier accidentally filled the gas tank with home heating fuel and the home heating fuel tank with gas.
When the supply truck arrived in Fort McPherson, they filled the co-op tanks as they normally would, but because the tanks had already been mixed up, both fuels were diluted.
The manager of Tetlit Co-op, Conrad Ruppers, told CBC that the simple, but now complicated, error was the fault of the supplier, who has accepted responsibility.
The latest fuel shipment arrived on Sunday, the day before ferries on the Dempster highway closed for the season. The community is now isolated from the larger highway system until the ice crossings open, usually in late November.
As days went by, the co-op began receiving complaints about the quality of the gas. Some vehicles weren't starting, so the co-op tested the fuel and found out the gas was diluted with diesel, which is used for home heating. No complaint arose from the home heating fuel.
The fuel supplier is now coordinating a solution with Tetlit Co-op. It plans to drain the diluted fuel and have planes come in to refill the tanks with the appropriate fuel.
Ruppers confirmed the co-op would then pump out and refill fuel tanks in homes that were affected by the mix-up.
The supplier is paying for the error, so no cost will be incurred by the co-op or those that had issues with the fuel. Anyone who experienced problems with the fuels will be reimbursed for the fuel they paid for.
Home heating crisis?
The Mayor of Fort McPherson, William Koe, said the community is "in a crisis," because most people depend on home heating fuel and may feel unsafe using the fuel knowing it has been diluted.
He expects some community members to transition to wood stoves while they wait for the hamlet to receive uncontaminated home heating fuel.
However, Ruppers said the supplier told him that it's still safe to use the partially diluted home heating fuel. He said there was just a "little" amount of gas mixed with the diesel, around 1,000 litres or so.
The timeline for refueling is still uncertain and depends on the availability of planes and staff. Ruppers is "optimistic" that it could be a day or two, but doesn't know for sure.
At the moment, the Northern is the only place in town to get gas.
The Northern's fuel tanks are smaller, so the store is putting limits on how much people can buy. The current cap is $40, more or less equivalent to a jerry can.