Frustration mounts in Keno City as gov't set to close waste transfer station

Keno City, Yukon, is about to lose its waste transfer station — and local residents say they're feeling abandoned by the territorial government.

'All of our infrastructure has been taken away,' says one local resident

The waste transfer station in Keno City, Yukon. Residents in that community will soon have to drive an hour and a half to Mayo to dump their garbage. (Amber Smith)

Keno City, Yukon, is about to lose its waste transfer station — and local residents say they're feeling abandoned by the territorial government.

At a community meeting last week, local residents were told by Community Services Minister Richard Mostyn that the local transfer station — the last piece of government infrastructure in the town — is going to be shut down.

Mostyn said that keeping the unsupervised site open for a population of only 20 people isn't financially sustainable.

"It's expensive," he told CBC.

"It's almost $9 million a year we're spending on waste. We've pledged as a government to do better. The plan that we have in place looks to manage society's waste in a better manner."

That plan will see unsupervised transfer stations in smaller communities such as Keno City, Johnson's Crossing, Silver City and Braeburn close, and money re-directed to managing supervised sites and improving waste management standards and practices.

In Keno City, residents will then have to drive an hour and a half to Mayo to dump their garbage.

Frustrated Keno City residents feel the territorial government is letting them down. (Amber Smith)

"That's going to be the regional landfill," said Mostyn.

"Residents of Keno already drive to Mayo to get their cars filled with gasoline and buy their groceries because there's no store in Keno and there's no gas station. Now they'll have to take their garbage there as well."

Community doesn't feel heard, residents say

Amber Smith lives in Keno and attended the meeting with Mostyn last week.

"It kind of got off in a really heated way," Smith told CBC.

"What took me back was the minister, pretty much after introducing himself, just stated from the get-go, 'Keno is expensive' — and that sort of set the tone that didn't resonate well with residents."

According to Smith, their transfer station services much more than 20 local residents.

"Keno is definitely experiencing a mining boom," she said.

"There's traffic in and out. There's helicopters constantly. Add to that all of the placer miners in the area, the visitors that come — that adds to our population."

Smith says the community doesn't feel heard and that's causing palpable frustration toward the government.

'Our infrastructure has been taken away'

Another local resident, Jim Milley, was also unhappy after the meeting with Mostyn. 

"What they've done here is stack the deck against the rural communities," Milley said.

"If you have the audacity to live in the Yukon, and not a sanctioned community, there are no services. In fact the services we had are being taken away ... All of our infrastructure has been taken away."

Milley says he feels that the Yukon government has failed Keno.

"We have no protection. No representation," Milley stated.

Last year, local 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. They 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. 

Speaking to CBC this week, Mostyn said the government was "looking at ways to provide some rudimentary fire protection for communities such as Keno," and that a consultant would be visiting the community later this month to talk to residents.

Still, Smith says she wants the government to give Keno some recognition, and not just as a tourist stop.

"Keno is always promoted — 'Come to Keno, the hidden gem,'" Smith said.

"On the one hand we're heavily promoted but on the other hand we aren't given anything to deal with the promotion. So which is it? 'Come to Keno because Keno's great,' or 'Keno's too expensive, we don't want any services there anymore'?"


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