Water treatment, disposal topics at Chamber of Commerce lunch

Posted: Friday, December 31, 2010

Everyone's getting ready for the new year, and that includes the City and Borough of Juneau. The future looks busy for the Public Works Administration, as Public Works Director Joe Buck outlined some of the highest priorities to the Juneau Chamber of Commerce.

Buck went through several projects CBJ will undertake. Some of these will be in the developmental or planning stages next year while other, smaller things, such as road maintenance, can be completed.

Buck said the biggest project for the year will be a $1.6 million secondary disinfection system at Salmon Creek. He said this is in compliance with an Environmental Protection Agency policy that requires surface water systems nationwide to have secondary disinfection systems.

Buck said $100,000 has already gone toward designing the system and at least another $1.5 million will be needed for construction. He is aiming for construction in 2012, as the system must be operational by October 2013.

More money, at least $1.5 million, would be needed for re-skinning and improving the incinerator at the Juneau-Douglas Treatment Plant. The incinerator was built in 1992 and is corroded.

On top of that, Buck said an additional $2.5 to $3 million would be needed to replace two heat exchangers at the incinerator over a 10-year period.

Buck said there are options to cut back on these expenses, which will be worked on this year. One option he favors is composting for the reuse of sludge, which he said is a better use for sludge than destroying it and is more cost-effective than what the incinerator could demand in long-term maintenance as it outlives a typical incinerator's 20-year lifespan.

Buck said he is pushing forward with composting designs. A report was generated from response to a statement of interest, and he hopes to present this to the Public Works and Facilities Committee on Monday. He hopes to present further analysis and proposals to the Committee of the Whole by the end of January.

"Incinerators are going to be a real interesting topic for us this year," he said.

In terms of waste disposals, Buck described how the department will be looking into proposals for combining recycling contracts for household hazardous waste, junk vehicles and material recycling into a single, long-term program.

"The problem is they're small, short-term contracts and contractors aren't willing to invest capital," said Buck. "So we're proposing to combine these three into one long contract."

"What we're trying to do is get the trash out of the landfill," he said.

For snow disposal, he said Public Works is working with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation to develop a new snow storage and treatment program.

Another project for 2012 is the rebuilding of the Lawson Creek Pump Station. This is about a $1 million project. Buck said a design has been readied to seek loans or grants for the work.

Buck said there are several ways to fund projects like these. Among them are low-interest loans from the state's Department of Environmental Conservation. Such loans can be around 1.5 or 2.5 percent interest for water-related projects.

He said one thing CBJ tries to avoid is revenue bonds in order to avoid incurring such debts.

More projects include road maintenance on 6th Street, Bonnie Doon Drive, Aurora Street, Sundown Drive, Lemon Creek Road and Pine Street, among others.

He said several water mains are in really bad shape and must be maintained, such as those on Pioneer Avenue, Great Western Street, the Bayview Subdivision and along Old Glacier Highway from Fritz Cove to De Harts. There are additional water lines that need to be replaced.

Also, the Public Works customer service office on Shaune Drive will be moved to the first floor to increase public and handicapped accessibility. He said this move was funded two years ago and the move will happen now.

Besides projects, CBJ will be bringing in financial consultants this year to update the Public Works business plan and examine rate structures, rate redesign options and limited benchmarking possibilities.

"Our primary thing is to keep the costs down," said Buck.

He will also work with such consultants to move forward in combining the water utility and wastewater utility into the Juneau Public Utilities, making it a self-supported enterprise.

• Contact reporter Jonathan Grass at 523-2276 or jonathan.grass@juneauempire.com.



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