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Finding waste solutions no easy task

Posted: Thursday, May 30, 2002

Waste not, want not.

But where do Kenai Peninsula Borough residents want human waste to go once it is removed from their homes?

That was the question raised by the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District last week at a forum on septic tank waste disposal. With final resting spaces for waste being finite and slowly diminishing and with concerns about the effects to ground water being raised, solutions are not easy to come by.

Jim Carter, EDD executive director, said his organization is looking to get funding for a feasibility study for including waste water collection in the borough's comprehensive economic development strategy.

"When you go into the community, all you hear about is quality of life," he said. "EDD wants to make sure that health issues remain foremost."

Currently, waste from residential properties outside municipalities goes into septic tanks -- small sewage holding tanks that allow waste water to separate from solid waste -- and can be transferred, upon request, after between one to two years to one of five septic lagoons on the peninsula. One of the lagoons is currently off line, and space in the others is slowly filling up as the peninsula's population continues to grow.

Cathy Mayer, Kenai Peninsula Borough solid waste director, said there is a chance the borough could help with waste disposal.

"We have talked with septic haulers and we're working through the process to be able to accept dried solids in the landfill," she said. "I would think within the next couple of months we'll know the criteria."

If the landfill turns out to not be an option, eventually, space will have to be found. Since 1990, the population on the peninsula has increased 21 percent, according to EDD information, and the number of lagoons decreased last year from five to four.

The four privately owned septic lagoons currently in operation on the peninsula are in Homer, the former Town and Country site in Nikiski, the Sterling Peninsula Pumping site, and one on Robinson Loop Road in Sterling.

Sean Cude, vice president of S & R Enterprises, owns those sites and he said he has room to spare in his lagoons.

"We've got 80 acres of land, and I'm using 10 acres," he said.

Jerry Holland of Aardvark Pumping owns the fifth lagoon in Ridgeway. He said he had temporarily lost the lease to the property the lagoon is on, and it was, as a result, decommissioned until it can be repermitted by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.

Kenai public works manager Keith Kornelis, who attended last week's meeting, said the city's capacity for storing sewage is 60 percent full and is limited to Kenai residents at a cost.

"Ten dollars per 100 gallons," he said.

Mayer estimated the borough landfill would take about 50 years to fill with solid waste. This includes solid waste already going into the landfill and the influx from the lagoons.

DEC specialist David Johnson said the lagoons could still pose health problems, however. When cleansed, waste water from the lagoons is injected into the soil, where there are potential hazards to ground water.

"When on-site waste is treated, it is moved to subsurface," he said."All five (lagoons) on the Kenai dispose of waste to the soil."

Cude said he put a lot of money into making his sites exceed DEC regulations, to ease concerns of injecting waste into the soil. This includes purchasing new equipment that further purifies waste, cleaning the liquid that is returned to the soil and compressing the solid.

Cude said the biggest problem is finding a place for any new lagoons if necessary and neighbors who would accept them, should the borough plan fall through. He said neighbors of one of his lagoons claims it has brought down property values.

"They want it out of their back yards," he said.



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