City cuts off snow-dumping site

Private snow haulers barred from dropping loads into channel near downtown

Posted: Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Snow removal contractor Jerry Godkin was stunned last week when he got a phone call from the city saying he could no longer dump snow into Gastineau Channel near the Juneau Yacht Club.

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The tideland at that end of Aurora Harbor, slated for eventual development, is too valuable for continued contamination by contractors dumping snow polluted with toxins, salt and garbage, Docks and Harbors Board Chairman Don Etheridge said. Instead snow will have to be dropped into the channel at Douglas Harbor.

Godkin said he'll have to charge his 30 commercial clients and various homeowners more to cover the extra costs of transferring snow to the other site.

"Contracts are signed," Godkin said.

For one of his customers, the Federal Building, he estimates trucking snow to Douglas Harbor will add $1,500 to the bill every time it snows. The cost to another customer, Park Shore Condos, will increase by $850, he said.

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The city's harbor master decided last March to close the downtown dump site.

"No testimony was taken," Godkin said. "Someone dropped the ball."

Harbor Master Lou McCall agrees contractors such as Godkin who used the site to dump large amounts of snow after each storm should have been notified. But no public process was required to make the decision, and there was no policy governing the annual dumping, he said.

"The board directed us to shut it down," McCall said.

The Juneau Yacht Club location, used to dump snow for years, is the only place left downtown to build a new marina and the city hopes to develop it in the future.

Cleanup, however, will cost a fortune, McCall said.

A similar cleanup of the downtown Steamship Dock nearly cost the city $1 million after gravel and sediment from previous snow dumping was dredged up and found to be contaminated with hydrocarbons, which are pollutants that come from car exhaust and oil.

"It's very costly to dispose of," Etheridge said. "When you dig it up you have to do something with it."

The city escaped the heavy fees of transporting the waste to the Lower 48 and placed the toxic sediment into a "large plastic bag" and buried it under the parking lot of the Douglas Marina.

"We were lucky that time," Etheridge said. "There is never a guarantee."

The dump closure has no effect on the city's snow removal program because their crews dump snow under the Douglas Island bridge before pushing it into the channel.

Superintendent of Streets Mike Scott said deciding where to put snow is a large economic decision and the city is trying to find a permanent solution. Scott intends to meet with the snow removal companies and the Juneau Assembly to find an answer that includes everyone.

"They're willing to pay a fee," Scott said, to dump snow at the city site.

Godkin said he would pay $5 for each truckload if he could dump at the city site. Counting the three other companies that used the old site, Godkin said the city could collect $1,000 dollars a night in fees.

"I've got to look out for myself and my customers," he said.

Assembly member Merrill Sanford is working to gather the involved parties and find a permanent snow dump. Sanford said the city needed to look at one disposal site for efficiency and environmental reasons.

"Hauling it a distance of 10 to 20 miles doesn't make sense," he said.

If 10 feet of snow fall before a conclusion is reached, Sanford said the city would make an exception to regulations to make sure contractors have a place to dump their snow within a reasonable distance, including the banned tideland.

• Contact Greg Skinner at 523-2258 or

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