City to seek proposals on biosolid disposal

The City and Borough of Juneau is moving forward on finding a solution for its biosolid disposal issues.

The Thane incinerator has not been functional since autumn 2010 and the city currently has a contract with Waste Management to dispose the treated sludge in the city dump.

City Manager Rod Swope presented an engineering department report on six options for biosolid disposal. The Assembly unanimously approved calling for Request for Proposals for a private-sector compost facility to explore costs. It will likely also confirm costs of a city-owned facility at a later date.

The city faces several options:

Option 1

Repair and restart the existing incinerator. It would cost about $2 million as a temporary fix and the city would have to dump at least $15 million into a new facility in roughly seven years. The report states that the facility experiences frequent breakdowns at the end of its 20-year lifespan.

“I think we all agree that’s a non-starter,” Swope said. “That’s just throwing good money after bad.”

Option 2

Local private landfill disposal. This would continue the current temporary procedure of sending the biosolids to the Waste Management landfill. This would be more cost effective than repairing the incinerator, however it would likely shorten the life of the landfill and has potential for odor issues.

“As a long term solution this is not it,” Swope said.

Option 3

CBJ owned landfill. This would mean a city property — possibly Hidden Valley or Fish Creek land — would be used as a disposal site. Swope said in a very basic description, the city would dig a big hole, dump the sludge in and when full it would cover it up and find another site.

“In my mind that is not acceptable,” Swope said.

Option 4

Ship “South” for disposal. Steel shipping containers would transport the biosolids “Down South” for appropriate disposal.

“I actually thought this might have some merit,” Swope said.

However, the most cost-effective location for disposal is the West Coast. Swope said they recently learned that Washington has a law that says biosolids can only be disposed of for five years. He said Oregon is looking at similar legislation and is moving forward. So this option, assuming disposal at a West Coast facility, would only be temporary.

Option 5

CBJ compost facility. Swope said the city spent a lot of time researching composting and it would be a fairly new concept to Juneau. The report’s explanation is that composting mixes high nitrogen biosolids with carbon wood chips. The material would decompose under controlled conditions and would be approved for use in gardens or landfill cover, depending upon classification.

Swope said he will likely ask the Assembly for a request for funds to have a consultant who is an expert in composting go over CBJ figures for the cost of this method, among other city assumptions.

Option 6

Private compost facility. This would essentially be the same purpose as a city-owned facility, however it would be left up to a private company. Swope recommended the Assembly approve Request for Proposals for a private-sector compost facility.

“We want to know what the private sector can propose,” he said. “At the same time, we would like to get somebody to take a look and get an estimate for CBJ recommendations to make sure it’s accurate, give you some comfort that an experts looked at these and confirmed numbers. With information from private sector and our numbers, you would have the information on how to proceed.”

Assemblyman Bob Doll was in favor of the report, and moving forward.

“One of the primary considerations should be, the topic should not be allowed to continue to drift along until we have to do a project we don’t want to,” he said. “We’ve already seen the affect of that with solid waste. I would like to think CBJ would remain in the lead and not let it simply drift along willy-nilly with no control.”

The Assembly also unanimously approved creating a library department. This would cost no additional funds and was suggested as a matter of consolidating the administration department.

• Contact reporter Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at


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