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Workers are connecting nearly 50 homes on North Douglas Island to the city's sewer system, an improvement that will curb wastewater flowing into the Mendenhall Wetlands.
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Officials say the $2.7 million project will connect the Bayview Subdivision to city sewers and eliminate the need for home treatment plants that discharge waste into a sensitive area beloved by anglers, hikers, duck hunters and bird-watchers.
The sewer line is being run through the wetlands and under Gastineau Channel.
"It's a very significant project," Public Works Director Joe Buck said. "We're discontinuing that affluent flow from the Gastineau Channel and the game refuge."
The work will benefit the entire community, not just the residents served by the sewer upgrade, Buck said.
"Recreation is a very important thing for all of us who live here, so keeping the water clean is very important, and this is one of those projects that improves the water quality."
A crew spent Thursday burying sewer pipe in the wetlands to connect the North Douglas homes directly to the Mendenhall Wastewater Treatment Plant.
Nearly half of the project's funding, or $1.2 million, came from an Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation grant, city grant accountant Helen Davies said.
The wastewater utility funded an additional $1.4 million, and $125,000 was secured from the city's temporary 1 percent sales tax, she said.
The project has been in the works for several years, since the city realized the 1970s design for dealing with wastewater at Bayview was no longer appropriate, Buck said.
"It became apparent that we needed to do something drastically different at Bayview," he said.
The installation will make life easier for people in Bayview because they will no longer need the private treatment plants, which cost around $3,500, Buck said.
"In the end they won't have to maintain the treatment plants anymore," he said. "In the long run it will be much easier for them."
The sewer line is designed and constructed in such a way that there is little chance of a malfunction that would spill waste into the channel or the wetlands, Buck said.
"It's a very tight design for a piping system," he said. "It's very appropriate for the type of project that we're doing out there."
A construction crew was attaching concrete weights around the sewer pipe on Thursday to ensure that it stays submerged in an area that has significant ground uplift due to glacial activity.
Eric Morrison can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.