The federal and territorial governments have agreed to provide $4.4 million in funding for the expansion of the Whitehorse compost facility.
The funding was announced Monday afternoon at city hall.
It’s comprised of $3.3 million from the feds and $1.1 million from the territory. The city will be contributing $40,000.
Mayor Dan Curtis told a news conference it has been challenging to get this expansion.
He said it’s imperative to prevent leachates from getting into the city’s water
supply and to ensure that the landfill has an extended life.
It’s fantastic to see the business community on board with this initiative, he added.
Curtis pointed out that the green cart, or organic collection program, has diverted 2,700 tonnes of materials from the landfill. This expansion should allow for another 1,000 metric tonnes to be diverted. The commercial organic collection program is five months ahead of schedule, the mayor said.
“This is absolutely phenomenal for a population of less than 30,000 people,” he said.
It take about 18 months for the compost to be processed. This covers the time from when organics are dropped off at the facility to them being used in a garden.
The expansion is expected to drop this process down to 12 months. Curtis explained that pipes bring heat to the compost year-round. This helps break it down.
This takes it from one stage to the next as the compost is turned.
There are concerns that gravel and dirt are found in the compost when it’s lifted and turned. The gravel and dirt are not needed, and have to be filtered out.
The expansion will allow for a concrete floor and pipes to go through. This school help speed up the process.
The city is aiming to achieve a 50 per cent waste diversion rate from the landfill.
The compost is available for sale to anyone. Curtis said the city sold it to Canadian Tire, but could not keep up with the demand.
He said the operational costs are for three employees and a loader. He does not expect to see an increase on this front.
Yukon MP Larry Bagnell said this expansion will make a real difference for the territory’s families, communities and environment. He said this is the reason why
Ottawa is investing in the North.
In the local trailer park in which he lives, the owner put in an organics bin. Bagnell said it’s often filled every few days. He drops off organics once a day.
He introduced Marie-Claude Bibeau, the federal minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food who was visiting the Yukon for the first time this week.
Bibeau said the goal is to empower northerners, noting the government is investing in more than 450 infrastructure projects.
Of these, 95 per cent have either been completed or are underway.
“We have many more achievements to be proud of,” she said.
The feds have helped lift 85 boil-water advisories in First Nations communities nation-wide, Bibeau added. She expects the remaining advisories to be lifted in the
next two years.
She said the upgrades to the compost facility should allow for large amounts of organic waste to be collected and processed. It will protect both the environment and
waterways from such waste.
“We are setting the groundwork for the growth of the population and economy of Whitehorse,” she said.
The project will address two issues with the facility. The first is an upgrade to the electric and mechanical systems. This should improve efficiency and allow the
processing of additional waste.
The next issue deals with expanding gravel and concrete surface work areas as well as improving the storm water management system. These will help the facility
process more organic waste efficiently.
“The new Whitehorse compost facility will also decrease the amount of greenhouse gas emitted by the organ waste, which can be substantial,” Bibeau said.
She explained that this project was identified as a priority by the community, and feels it will help empower the North.
Community Services Minister John Streicker said the money is coming from the Canada Infrastructure Plan.
“The City of Whitehorse has been doing great things with compost, effectively turning an environmental liability into an asset,” he said.
When organics get into the waste stream, he explained, it leads to leachates and methane emissions.
“They are a real problem,” Streicker said.
He pointed out that the expanded facility will allow for an additional reduction of 350 tonnes of greenhouse gas per year.
He explained that the compost – which he called black gold – will be good for gardens and city boulevards.
Streicker said the increased funding should help the facility keep up with the extra demand created by the territory’s growing population.
The funding will come partly this year and some next year, the minister said. He did not say how much would be given at each time. He did state that both increments
would be spit 75 per cent from the feds and 25 from the territory.
On Monday evening, city council approved a resolution which amended the funding arrangement for the facility.