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

Consultant backs waste plan, says landfill 'in trouble'


A Juneau solid waste consultant recently backed the Haines Borough Solid Waste Working Group’s goal of creating a management plan, and warned of borough liability for the local landfill that he said is “in trouble.”

Jim Penor, solid waste coordinator for the City and Borough of Juneau, spoke April 21 about Juneau’s waste management practices and recommendations for how Haines should proceed. Reilly Kosinski and Melissa Aronson were the only two members present.

Penor, who said he has 40 years of experience in the waste industry, recommended the group write a 10-year solid waste management plan and revise it every five years so it “doesn’t grow cobwebs.”

Solid waste plans are required under a federal solid waste law by all counties and government entities, Penor said. The Haines Borough has never had a solid waste plan, although one was written and never adopted by the assembly in 2000.

Although Haines’ landfill is privately owned by Community Waste Solutions, the borough is legally responsible for healthy, safe and environmentally conscious disposal of the waste it generates under a federal law called Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA), Penor said.

“It all rolls downhill. If you touched waste and you made a profit on it, you’re a liable partner. If you are the government entity that generated the waste, under the definition, you are the person also liable for it. The government entity has the responsibility…for health, safety and environment,” Penor said.

Based on an unofficial drive-through of the CWS landfill, Penor said: “On the solid waste ladder rung, (the borough) is in trouble.” He said uncovered waste that’s not compressed on unlined ground creates conditions to produce a high methane content. “The best compacted landfill is the most environmentally friendly landfill,” Penor said. “I’m surprised that thing hasn’t caught on fire.”

Sally Garton of Community Waste Solutions rebutted Penor’s claims, saying the landfill is permitted as a “class three” facility for receiving under 5 tons of trash per day, which exempts it from needing a liner.

“We have blue clay which is better than any liner out there,” Garton said.

Garton said composting household waste before it goes to the landfill kills off bacteria and microbes that would cause rotting and methane production.

Garton said she was told by an EPA official that the landfill would create a “minute” amount of methane from the decomposition of wood. “It’s not like we have a huge methane problem,” Garton said. She added it was rude of Penor not to ask for a tour and to make claims about the landfill without doing a proper inspection.

Penor also said at the meeting that Juneau does not own or operate anything regarding waste. The landfill and waste collection are operated by separate companies, and the Regulatory Commission of Alaska sets rates on collection, which is a utility.

Haines deputy clerk Alekka Fullerton said the borough will hear back in June on the assembly’s recent recommendation for the RCA to regulate local rates.

Garbage collection is not mandatory in Juneau and the self-haul option is available, but Penor said illegal dumping will still occur without mandatory service.


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