State says Talkeetna sewer system a threat to groundwater and river

Posted: Wednesday, October 31, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- State environmental officials say the sewer system in Talkeetna is so overloaded and in such disrepair that it threatens groundwater and possibly the salmon-rich Talkeetna River.

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation has sent out a notice of violation to the Mat-Su Borough, operator of the system.

According to the notice, sent last week, the lines leak, a sluice gate at the sewage lagoon is broken and a system originally designed for 40,000 gallons a day is sometimes flooded with as much as 100,000 gallons of waste and water a day.

''The past and ongoing operational difficulties at this facility present a serious threat to the groundwater and to the Talkeetna River,'' states the letter written by Michael Skibo, a state environmental engineer.

The agency has given the borough until April to make permanent repairs.

There are no signs the town's main well for drinking water or the river -- both located near the sewage lagoon -- have been contaminated, Skibo said. But an August test of a monitoring well next to the lagoon showed amounts of fecal coliform that exceed state limits.

The main concern is around the sewage lagoon, which is about a mile north of the airport, Skibo said.

''It's time for a repair and upgrade,'' he told the Anchorage Daily News.

Dick Lowman, who heads maintenance and operations for the borough, said borough officials have long been aware of problems with the sewer system, which was installed in the 1980s.

But the cost of fixing the problems has always hampered action, he said. Borough officials estimate it would cost more than a million dollars to fix it. That's a lot for a 400-person system that generates only about $130,000 a year in user fees, Lowman said.

Still, he said, ''I think we've reached the point that we have to find the money.''

Borough manager John Duffy said the borough has already applied for state and federal grants to help pay the cost of repairs.

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