Keno City's waste transfer station set to close by end of September

The waste transfer station in Keno City, Yukon. (Amber Smith - image credit)
The waste transfer station in Keno City, Yukon. (Amber Smith - image credit)

The waste transfer system in one Yukon community is quickly coming to an end.

Keno City, Yukon, which is made up of about 24 people, is to be one of four unincorporated communities slated to lose its waste transfer system. The territory touts the move as a positive change economically and ecologically, though some residents are not happy about it.

Keno City has relied on the territory to remove its waste and truck it to the landfill in Whitehorse, about 464 kilometres away.

However, the territory says that the system can be costly — nearly $9 million annually, according to an interview last year with Community Services Minister Richard Mostyn — and it can have an impact on the environment from the emissions from trucks transferring the waste.

Instead, the Yukon government has proposed a new plan to help Keno residents manage their personal waste.

The community will be getting a trailer, 26 new bear-resistant wheeled carts for household waste, six bear-resistant wheeled carts for household recycling, and electric fencing to mitigate bear access, according to a statement sent to CBC News from the Department of Community Services.

From there, residents will then have to drive an hour and a half, or about 45 kilometres, to Mayo to dump their own waste when the carts are full.

The waste transfer station closure, tentatively set for Sept. 30, won't happen until the infrastructure is in place, the territory noted.

A town meeting was held on Tuesday to inform Keno City residents of the development.

Some residents haven't been keen on the plan, expressing their concerns at meetings last year.

Earlier this year, Yukon's ombudsman described consultations on the plan to close unsupervised landfill sites in the four communities as unfair to the communities affected.

Keno City resident Amber Smith, spokesperson for the resident council, said she doesn't buy the government's reasoning that it's to protect the environment.

"We have how many decades of mining that's happened here," Smith said."It's a fairly contaminated town … so to claim righteous environmental reasons as why this needs to close rings incredibly false."

Smith also told CBC that she doesn't see how the government can say the waste station is too expensive to manage.

"When we hear it's too expensive we're left wondering where that expense is," she explained.

Amber Smith
Amber Smith

"Between October and April it's just core residents who are here in town and there was no need to come up and service our site for hauling the trash away at all," she said.

"They came at the end of April and only four of the seven bins were full so that shows you right there that during the off season seven bins service our population just fine and then some."

'Always on the losing end'

Smith said this latest development once again has left Keno City residents feeling like their voices aren't being heard.

"You know we're always on the losing end. Every time," Smith said. "It's becoming unacceptable. I do think it's interesting how they are continually removing services from this community but they're still collecting taxes. So what is that?"

In 2020, residents called for a public inquiry into fire services in Keno City after the iconic Keno City Hotel went up in flames. Residents complained that they had no local fire department and had to rely on firefighters from Mayo to respond.

Residents also said that a large water tank in Keno had been removed by the territory's Department of Community Services and that a building housing the water truck and personal protective equipment for fire fighters was locked. The community recently put together their own fire protective services in response to their concerns.

The other of the four unincorporated communities that are expected to lose their waste transfer stations are Johnson's Crossing, Destruction Bay, and Silver City, though no date has been set in those communities.