City settles over sewage violations

Juneau to pay almost $37,000 for breaking water and air pollution laws

Posted: Friday, February 11, 2005

Juneau will pay $36,793 to settle two sewage-treatment complaints by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The agency alleged that the city violated the Clean Water Act at its Douglas Wastewater Treatment Plant and the Clean Air Act at the Mendenhall Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The agency said the Mendenhall plant used and stored large quantities of chlorine and sulfur dioxide to process its wastewater but failed to file a risk-management plan of the two hazardous chemicals. The plan was required by the Clean Air Act.

A statement from the EPA said the plan is a tool to help the facility and local emergency responders protect the public from accidental chemical releases. If accidentally released, chlorine and sulfur dioxide could severely affect the environment.

Scott Jeffers, Juneau Wastewater Utility superintendent, said his predecessor and a risk management staff member misunderstood the requirement and didn't send a risk management plan to the EPA. Both people have left their positions.

Jeffers said the Mendenhall plant no longer uses chlorine and sulfur dioxide to kill bacteria in the effluent. The city has been using ultra-violet radiation to disable bacteria since the fall of 2003.

"The biggest reason for stopping using the two chemicals is that if you've got nasty chemicals on site, you've got to meet training requirements and submit a risk management plan to the EPA. And you've got a potential risk to adjacent property owners," Jeffers said.

The EPA also found that the city failed to develop a long-term control plan for its Douglas plant. Under the terms of its EPA-issued pollution discharge permit, Juneau was required to develop a control plan by Dec. 27, 2002.

Without the plan, "there is no schedule to eliminate the combined sewer overflow outfalls that allow untreated wastewater to be discharged to surface, such as Gastineau Channel," according to the EPA statement.

Jeffers attributed this mistake to staff shortage and turnover at that time. He took over the job in June of 2002 after the position was vacant for 15 months. The city has since corrected the mistake and submitted a plan.

Jeffers said in the old days, the Douglas plant released a combination of untreated storm sewage and sanitary sewage into the channel every storm season but the city has taken a series of steps in the 1980s to separate storm sewage from sanitary sewage.

"The plan asks us to continue to limit the amount and number of discharges," Jeffers said. "We only did it once last year. The goal is to have zero."

• I-Chun Che can be reached at

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