From Source to Tap- ensuring all Yukoners have access to safe drinking water

Brad_Head3As submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, August 1st, 2014
by Brad Cathers, Minister of Community Services

The way in which Yukoners access drinking water can vary significantly depending on where they live. In larger Yukon communities, water may be accessed through a municipal water supply and piped distribution system. By contrast, Yukoners living in rural areas may access drinking water through a trucked water delivery system, private wells or self-haul from community wells or rivers.

Today, Yukon government operates and maintains public drinking water wells in seven communities with new water systems soon to come on line in Tagish and Deep Creek.

Providing Yukoners with clean drinking water that meets or exceeds current Canadian Drinking Water Guidelines is a government priority. In recent years, work has focused on meeting the new reduced limits for naturally occurring arsenic in water sources. As the guidelines are regularly reviewed, levels for other or new elements will change, and we will continue to work to meet those new standards as well.

Managing drinking water in Yukon is a cooperative effort between all levels of government, industry and stakeholders, including individual Yukoners. Like safe drinking water, reliable wastewater infrastructure is a commitment we continue to deliver. Replacing or repairing aging infrastructure is costly, but is also critical to ensure public health and protect access to clean water.

We have identified $5 million as a planned investment to modernize Watson Lake’s aging drinking water infrastructure. The modernized system will provide improved treatment and disinfection, as well as upgrades for the removal of iron and manganese in compliance with regulation.

This follows the recent upgrades that provided the town with 800 metres of new water mains, 50 new sewer manholes, seven fire hydrants and 3000 metres of new sewer lines to replace infrastructure that predates 1980.

Other communities which have benefited from government support in upgrading water systems include the Village of Teslin, which is accessing $14,375 for an assessment of its sewage lagoon operations, and $4.1 million water treatment system is nearly complete, which includes a new pump house. The new system will reduce arsenic, iron, manganese and nitrate, as well as address turbidity, alkalinity and hardness issues.

The Ross River Dena Council is accessing $238,000 to build an addition to the town’s garage to accommodate a fuel and sewage truck. The $6.3 million public works building in Ross River, which houses the water treatment system and fire truck, is now complete.

Faro’s wooden water pipes and aging sewer system built in 1969 has been updated. This $8.6 million project includes new water and sewer lines and a pump house. A new well-house motor has also been purchased to improve energy efficiency and reliability of the water system.

At Mendenhall, a project valued at $2 million is underway to upgrade community water supply to meet regulatory requirements as a public fill point. This year, $250 thousand was spent on drilling new wells.

Work that includes well upgrades, storage tanks, filtering systems and an addition to the facilities to house new equipment, will be undertaken in 2014.

Working with our partners, we are doing what we promised to do by continuously developing and improving community infrastructure to provide access to safe drinking water for all Yukoners, for now and future generations.