The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Heidi Zemach
For The LOG 

Sewage open house sparked by concerns


Wolfgang Kurtz | The Seward Phoenix LOG

The City of Seward’s sewage treatment lagoon was last dredged when the liner failed in 1991. It has been accumulating sludge since, which is long overdue for removal.

On short notice, Lowell Point and Seward residents attended an open house at the City of Seward’s Lowell Point sewage treatment facility Saturday. The sewage lagoon stunk all summer and continues to do so, causing considerable concern in the tourism-driven community, and worry over their health and economic welfare. At least 21 residents have filed nuisance odor reports with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and many attended a city council meeting last week to voice their opinions.

The informational open house was headlined by Seward City Manager Jim Hunt, Vice-Mayor Jean Bardarson and city public works officials along with representatives from the city’s facility consultant, ML Foster & Associates, were present to discuss the facility’s operation and answer questions.

The odor issue may be related to the need to dredge the aging sludge from the lagoon. The exact cause, or causes of the stench and lagoon malfunctioning, however, are still undetermined. They also could relate to the functioning of aerators, pumps that supply oxygen to the living microbes that help clean the wastewater material, and also the age and efficiency of the microbes themselves, said Public Works Director W.C. Casey.

Loren Leman, an engineer with ML Foster & Associates said his firm has prepared three different studies for the city regarding the lagoon in as many years. Their focus has been on overdue dredging, which he said definitely needs to be done.

“The city and consultant are examining several factors that contributed to the odor issue,” said Hunt, in an email to area residents Monday morning who discussed the matter through emails following the meeting. “There are many assumptions and at least one unscientific exaggeration stated in the “#4 email,” he said. It was unclear which issue he was referring to in Lynda Paquette’s email. He continued; “There are too many to address. Please be assured the city has been, and is currently, addressing the issue.”

Paquette and fellow residents also raised concerns after learning that the proliferating smell contained hydrogen sulfide, a poisonous, corrosive, flammable and explosive substance. They had health concerns for long-term, low-level exposure.

They also were disappointed to learn that the city expected it would be a lengthy process to find a location to put the newly dredged sludge. That search is complicated by the need to find a private person or company willing to monitor it correctly over a period of years until it can be sold as commercial fertilizer. City officials informed residents that dredging would not be possible until next fall, at the earliest.

The city wants to reclaim the location off Nash Road near Spring Creek where the majority of the lagoon’s first deposit of 22-year-old remediated sludge sits awaiting transfer to a willing buyer for development. It does not want to put new sludge there with the long-term requirements of mixing and monitoring it, largely because of the complex regulations involved and the cost.

For Paquette, that information increased her determination to have a manufactured lid placed over the lagoon to minimize the stink and health risks. She believes that it would be a start, a short-term fix leading to a larger, more costly solution to the problem. The consultant was not familiar with some of the pond surface covers that the resident’s research showed were available, she said, but officials said they would obtain a rough estimate.

In Monday morning’s email, Hunt wrote, “The demand for a dome is not feasible and is financially unrealistic at this juncture.” He promised to hold another information session with concerned residents in the near future, as Saturday’s was on such short notice.

Other residents, such as Karl Van Buskirk of Alaska Storm Chasers, wrote the city manager and stated opposition to the city spending money on a cover that would not solve the problem. He favored a more direct approach that would fix the lagoon’s malfunctioning. Van Buskirk told Hunt he hoped the public health issue would be addressed as soon as possible, and that the next public meeting would be held at a site more conducive to public discussion.


Reader Comments


Our Family of Publications Includes:

Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2017