Sewage super to step down

City picks up fees in court case

Posted: Wednesday, May 30, 2001

The city's wastewater utility superintendent plans to resign in the wake of pollution violations at the Mendenhall Wastewater Treatment Plant, according to city officials.

Andrew Bronson pleaded guilty in April to two misdemeanor counts of negligently violating the terms of a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit in 1998. According to the U.S. attorney's office, Bronson used tap water to dilute wastewater effluent samples collected at the Mendenhall Wastewater Treatment Plant before the samples were analyzed by other employees.

The city has picked up $85,540 in legal fees and expects to receive at least one more bill, City Attorney John Corso said.

Bronson is currently on leave until his resignation takes effect at the end of June, said Corso and City Public Works Director Ernie Mueller. Bronson is scheduled to be sentenced June 20 in Anchorage by U.S. Magistrate Harry Branson.

Juneau Assembly members last year agreed to pick up attorneys' fees, costs and other expenses related to the case. Bronson agreed to repay the city if the Assembly decides he has not met standards of conduct required for payment as formulated by city ordinance. Because the federal criminal process is not complete, it is too early to say what might happen in terms of the city's financial obligations, Corso said.

Deputy Mayor John MacKinnon said he couldn't comment on the case because sentencing has not yet occurred. Assembly Member Ken Koelsch also said he couldn't comment on the case.

Bronson, too, declined comment. His attorney, Brian Doherty, could not be reached for a statement.

The Environmental Protection Agency filed a separate complaint against the city for allegedly violating effluent standards at the Mendenhall Treatment Plant in 1999. Corso said negotiations between the city and the EPA have been productive and the issue could be resolved in a week or two. The agency had proposed the city pay a $60,000 fine in connection with the incidents.

The EPA is reviewing engineering reports and other information connected to a compliance order in the case, Corso said.

Public works director Mueller now oversees the Mendenhall plant while the city recruits a new person to fill Bronson's position. Mueller said the plant is "running like a top."

Earlier this month, Assembly members approved $387,500 in funding for grit removal system improvements at the Mendenhall plant. The city is adding a new airblower at the plant that will allow workers to run all eight treatment tanks at once, Mueller said.

Additionally, the city is in the middle of a project to connect the Bonnie Brae neighborhood in North Douglas with the sewer system leading to the Juneau Douglas Treatment Plant via a pipe under Gastineau Channel to the Salmon Creek area. The project should be complete by the end of November, Mueller said.

Joanna Markell can be reached at joannam@juneauempire.com.



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