Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966


Smell targeted in 1st phase of sewer work


According to the Haines Borough, upgrades to its sewer plant are at the top of its priorities for spending state money.

The assembly passed a resolution Tuesday establishing sewer upgrades as the borough’s “number one local state-funded priority” in the hopes of scoring extra points on an application to the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) requesting upward of $2 million for a first phase of plant improvements.

The work would bring improvements including eliminating a fecal smell around the plant.

Manager Mark Earnest said although the borough has an enterprise fund to pay for sewer operations, it is small and can’t sustain the project’s burden on its own.

The borough spent $290,000 more on its sewer system than it received in revenue from ratepayers last year, and it is expected to lose an additional $249,000 this year. The sewer enterprise fund had a balance of $4.6 million as of June 30.

“(The enterprise fund) doesn’t generate very much revenue. So we’ve been doing upgrades with the CIP fund and with the sewer fund balance, but this is beyond what the fund can support on its own,” Earnest said.

An evaluation of the facility performed by consulting firm HDR Alaska said significant improvements to the plant haven’t been made in two decades.

“Much of the treatment equipment is reaching the end of its useful life (approximately 20-30 years) and is in need of replacement or upgrade. In addition to aging infrastructure within the treatment plant, issues with the local landfill (which is not owned or operated by the borough) have made it difficult and costly for the plant to dispose of dewatered solids and screenings,” said report author J. Ryan Moyers.

  The combination of old equipment, unsafe and undesirable working conditions in the plant, and sludge disposal challenges make upgrading the solids handling processes the “low-hanging fruit” of facility improvements, Moyers said.

  Earnest said the borough is hoping to receive a municipal matching grant from ADEC, which would cover 70 percent of project costs.