Sewer bubbles rain from sky

Foamy clusters clutter Wasilla

Posted: Sunday, April 15, 2007

WASILLA - Clusters of foamy bubbles, some reportedly as large as a car and others the size of a bathtub, spewed from the city sewer lagoon.

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"It looked like the texture of something you'd see come out of your washing machine if you overloaded it," said Sue Foster, a student teacher at Tanaina Elementary who snapped a photo and shot video of the mysterious bubbles that fell Wednesday.

The bubble clusters fell mostly between the Grandview Inn and Suites and the Sears store just off the Parks Highway in Wasilla.

"There were hundreds of them. They looked like suds," Foster said.

Foster said she didn't touch the blobs, fearing they might be full of chemicals. She guessed they might be some kind of waste ejected from a jet passing overhead.

They looked like they were falling right out of a cloud, she said.

Grandview Inn general manager Sandra Joyner said a maintenance employee scooped up some of the bubbles. They had no smell and were a little bit iridescent.

"It was ridiculous. People were pulling off to the side of the road and running out, trying to catch them," Joyner said.

Bill Harvey, Wasilla deputy public works director, said an odd mix of events caused the bubble phenomenon.

"It was sewer water, coming off the top of the lagoons," Harvey said. Ice thawing on the city sewer treatment lagoons, he said, leaves an accumulation of residue and lots of foam on the surface.

"Or it could be we got a good jolt of soap residue coming into the treatment plant yesterday," Harvey said.

Aerators that inject air into the lagoons to churn the water for treatment further stirred up the foam. Then, swirling air currents at the treatment plant created a chimney effect that sucked the foam hundreds of feet into the sky and carried them over the city, he said.

"The uncommon part was the tornado effect," Harvey said. "We've never had it go off city property before."

The aerators were turned off when staff at the treatment plant realized the bubbles were being carried away, Harvey said.

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