An aerial shot of Mayo, Yukon. (Yukon News file)

By Lawrie Crawford, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

After three years of trying to manage leaks from Mayo’s water tank reservoir system with crossed fingers and sandbags, it seems things have finally been figured out.

Mayo’s mayor, Trevor Ellis, said the system had leaked since it was installed in 2018 but this past summer more serious issues were found.

“Once they got the exterior off it, they found that it was a lot bigger problem than was originally thought,” Ellis said.

In the legislature Yukon Party MLA Geraldine Van Bibber, who serves as the Opposition critic for Community Services, described the situation: “We witnessed first-hand the steady stream of water flowing from the reservoir and the visible bulging of the tanks.”

She continued, “The reservoir is leaking so badly and the department is so concerned about the entire facility bursting that they have set up a wall of super sacks to protect the rest of the village from flooding in case the reservoirs fail.”

These are huge tanks, and a rupture could have been terrible.

In conversation with the News in October, Ellis was frank about his concerns about the water system failing. Besides using the phrase catastrophic, he was concerned that it not only affected the residents of Mayo, but also for the surrounding areas, some mines, and Keno City residents as well.

But in talking with Ellis in early December, things seemed to have settled out. During both conversations he credited the Yukon government as being fantastic to work with, and he seems relieved that mitigation and replacement plans are settled.

It hasn’t been cheap to figure out though. The bill for the tanks in 2018 was $2.2 million, and now they have to be replaced. In November 2020, the Yukon Government filed a Statement of Claim against Wildstone, the original contractor, and its bonding company.

There have been other expenses to identify the problem and proceed with a temporary fix. The Yukon’s contract registry indicates that a ‘Mayo Reservoir Expert Inspection’ came in at $243,000 (though it may come in less than that), and there are other water reservoir emergency related items from this fall that total close to $175,000.

A spokesperson for Community Services pointed to a recently posted a Request for Proposal (RFP) for technical support for the project to replace the reservoirs. They said that “a design-build tender and contract for full replacement of both the leaking reservoirs is anticipated in 2022.”

And there’s another $202,000 identified in another recent RFP for an ‘Owner’s Advisor for Reservoir Replacement’ which includes a number of engineering assessments that speak to the reservoir problems, and the reason for the protections put in place.

So far, YG has picked up the tab.

In the meantime, YG officials say that contingency and emergency plans are in place. And they will be operating the reservoirs with lower volumes than usual to reduce the pressure in the system.

The old tank is being cleaned and re-commissioned, but it will take time to reconnect all the piping systems that are needed. But it is a good enough plan B to carry the community to next year’s construction season for replacement tanks.

“Water systems, they’re very intricate. Nothing gets done super, super fast on them,” said Ellis.

Minister Richard Mostyn of the department of Community Services was unequivocal in the legislature on November 27 on two points. First, he was concerned “that they are in such poor shape, so soon after construction.”

Secondly, that “They [the tanks] are going to have to be replaced, so we are working with the community of Mayo to make sure that we get new tanks installed.”

It appears the fix is well underway, and catastrophe has been averted.

This item is reprinted with permission from Yukon News, Mayo, Yukon. See article HERE.

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