Haines Borough and State of Alaska officials will be taking a closer look at Haines Sanitation operations in coming months, as two documents vital to the company’s operation come up for review.
The company’s five-year state permit for operating its FAA Road landfill expires Feb. 13 and the 10-year contract the firm holds with the Haines Borough to provide collection of household waste in the townsite runs out April 31. The company also disposes of tons of sludge produced by the borough’s sewage treatment plant.
The collection contract will be discussed at the Feb. 8 assembly meeting, said borough manager Mark Earnest. "We’ll have a bullet-point discussion and find out how the assembly wants to proceed. (The contract) is coming up and I know there’s interest out there in this."
Among the issues for state regulators will be an inspection last fall that found the facility in violation of three permit requirements and resulted in an overall score of 62 percent. Problems cited by Sandra Woods of the state Department of Environmental Conservation included flooding, litter, uncovered garbage, and years of delays in sending surface water samples.
"Sludge and municipal waste have piled up in the middle of the landfill and water is running right through the pile of waste. A nearby trail is littered with bear scat that is full of garbage," Woods wrote Haines Sanitation owner Tom Hall in an inspection report Sept. 7.
Woods wrote that there was no required "working face" in the landfill. "There are piles of composted waste and inert waste scattered everywhere… The site has not been covered to prevent nuisances related to litter or to control vectors. Bears are a significant problem..."
Richard Crosby, who was hired in June as landfill operations manager, was recently fired. Hall this week refused to comment on the termination, but Crosby – who worked three years at Lower 48 landfills – this week described the local operation as undermanned and underfunded.
"There’s no operating capital to run the place. I can’t even repair the garbage truck and that’s their number one source of income," Crosby said. When dozens of semi trucks full of debris from school demolition showed up at the landfill, he had only a landscaping-scale excavator to move it around.
He eventually got a bulldozer loaned by a local contractor, but Hall hasn’t provided protective suits for handling sewage, and has been slow to fund repairs and other necessities, Crosby said.
Crosby operated the landfill with his son, but at least one more worker is needed for running the garbage truck, operating scales and maintaining fill to state standards, he said. Even more workers are needed for doing things like separating trash, he said.
Crosby used the remains of bales of rotting cardboard to try to keep garbage covered. "The trash has to be covered on a daily basis with six to eight inches of topsoil, which they claim to produce, but they don’t."
Some landfill equipment intended for use at the site’s composting operation is now off limits for the purpose, reserved for a soil-making operation there, he said. The borough delivers three times more sludge than is needed for feeding the landfill’s composter, raising other regulatory issues on its disposal, he said.
Crosby said his time was consumed keeping operations going and addressing state environmental concerns. "There’s so much more that needs to happen after I’m gone."
Hall this week wouldn’t discuss Crosby, describing him as disgruntled former employee. "I’m operating within my DEC permit and my DEC guidelines. That’s all I’m going to say." He said he was content with progress toward goals outlined by the DEC.
Renewal of the landfill permit is not a foregone conclusion, said the DEC’s Woods. "When I review it, I’ll do it with a fine-tooth comb. We’ll work with them. There’s a possibility they won’t get it, but I won’t know that until I review it."
She was asked about the landfill’s score of 62 percent of possible points during the fall inspection. "It’s not high by any means, but I’ve seen lower ones. It’s not a pass-fail. What we try to do is work with the managers. If there are issues they can fix, we can make a list of those and include them in the inspection."
Haines Sanitation sent DEC runoff water samples in October that were within water quality standards, she said. The company is required to send samples twice a year during high and low water periods. Before the October samples, no sampling reports had been sent to the state since 2005, according to Woods.