City looks for garbage solutions

Community urged to weigh in on waste management at Wednesday meeting

Posted: Monday, August 27, 2007

Juneau's landfill is just getting bigger and smellier, and city leaders are trying to figure out what to do about it.

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"There is a lot of concern about the size of the landfill, how quickly it is growing," Juneau Assembly member David Stone said.

The community will have a chance to weigh in on the community's garbage management at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Egan Room at Centennial Hall.

Consultants hired by the city this past winter will present a report on Wednesday detailing their preliminary findings, Juneau Special Projects Officer Maria Gladziszewski said. The consultants also will take comments from the public on waste management ideas.

"The process is to produce a report and to help Juneau map its solid waste future, basically - to advise the borough on its options for handling solid waste," Gladziszewski said.

More meetings will be held throughout the fall and winter, with a final report expected in early February, she said.

Stone, a member of the city's Solid Waste Working Group, said this is an important process that will result in a plan for how the community deals with its solid waste in the coming years.

"I'm looking for a road map," he said. "We're looking for some firm answers. ... We're not looking for a study just for the sake of a study."

The process will result in short-term, mid-term and long-term plans for garbage disposal, Gladziszewski said.

The city is in a somewhat rare situation in that local government does not operate the landfill or the waste-hauling operations. In recent years, concerns have escalated about the growing landfill, Gladziszewski said.

The landfill is large, smelly and growing, critics say.

"The question is what should the city's involvement be? These issues have come up again and again over the years," she said.

Wednesday's meeting will be an important step toward finding solutions, Gladziszewski said. Potential solutions could include creating a regional landfill, beginning the permitting process for a new landfill in Juneau, shipping garbage south to a large urban landfill, or a variety of other options, she said.

"What will Juneauites find acceptable, and what are they willing to pay to change the situation? That's the question," Gladziszewski said.

The city already has taken action to reduce the amount of garbage in the waste stream. It has several contracts that address waste concerns, including ones for recycling, hazardous waste disposal and junk car disposal.

Gladziszewski said although the landfill is becoming more visible from Egan Drive, that doesn't mean there is a crisis for the community. At present garbage trends, the nearly 40-acre landfill still has about a 30-year operational life span left, she said.

"There is time to figure this out," she said. "It is a good time to do it because there is not a crisis. We have time to plan for the future. We have a viable landfill."

"We believe this is a timely topic that really needs to be addressed," Stone said.

Gladziszewski said public participation is a key part of the process.

"The more participation, the more ideas there are, the better," she said. "It's a big issue, and I know there are a lot of concerns. Because of the height of the landfill, people are starting to notice."

• Contact Eric Morrison at 523-2269 or eric.morrison@juneauempire.com.



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