Haines Borough officials this week said there’s time to develop disposal alternatives in the wake of Community Waste Solution’s decision last week to no longer accept municipal sludge at its FAA Road landfill.
In a limited statement this week, company president Tom Hall said he would like to accept sludge again at some later date.
"My intent is once I get the operation and the sludge situation dealt with, I’ll make a proposal to do that in the future," Hall said, adding that state approval would be required for a resumption of service. "I think I can give (the borough) a feasible proposal to do that, but I can’t do that right now."
Since 2002, Hall has used sludge to compost solid waste, but in a recent letter to the borough, Hall said he would no longer compost "due to high operational costs given our lower waste volume and revenue."
A sludge discharge also is suspected by residents who reported black water running through creeks downhill of the dump during recent heavy rains. Hall cited the suspected discharge this week in an appeal to the borough for help establishing a landfill perimeter buffer and siting a leachate treatment tank.
The Haines Borough produces about 120,000 pounds of sludge per year, a by-product of its sewage-treatment plant. For decades, sludge has gone to the landfill for disposal. The borough budgeted $15,000 for its disposal this year.
"We have some options. It’s not like it’s the end of the world tomorrow," said sewer plant operator Scott Bradford, who oversees sludge for the borough.
Sludge could be barged to an incinerator in Skagway, or to another location, it could be composted on site or stored until spring or summer, Bradford said.
Borough manager Mark Earnest said this week that he, Bradford and facilities chief Brian Lemcke held a teleconference Friday with an Anchorage engineering firm that has designed sludge systems for Pelican and Homer using "geotubes."
The tubes are made from a porous fabric that allows water to drain out. According to plant operator Bradford, landfill-bound sludge is more than 80 percent water. "It sounds like a big number, but when you take out the water, it’s about 20,000 pounds," Bradford said of the borough’s annual sludge production.
Earnest said he asked HRD Engineers to put together a scope and fee letter using geotube technology for the assembly’s consideration. According to a company that manufactures geotubes, dewatered sludge can be spread on "approved fields," be disposed at a landfill or be used for energy production.
It also can be composted to create topsoil, the company said.
Federal regulations govern disposal of sludge. "If we do begin to review an option of self-dispoal, further review of applicable federal regulations is required. In general, the regulations will require testing and certain minimum operating requirements. These may present significant costs for any operator, including the borough," Earnest wrote.
In its recent letter, Community Waste Solutions also said it ended "no-cost services" on Dec. 1, including free collection of cardboard, tin cans, glass and #1 and #2 plastics. "However, due to the handling costs for this high volume of materials, including assisting Haines Friends of Recycling with baling, (the company) ended these no-cost services," Hall wrote.
In a related issue, Mayor Stephanie Scott this week said the borough needs research on how it might acquire the sole waste management permit for the borough, the cost of acquiring the permit and the costs of not moving to municipal management of solid waste.
She said the borough attorney was tackling the question of determining the borough’s liability in regards to the Community Waste Solutions landfill.