Gateway Borough moves ahead with sludge facility

Posted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002

KETCHIKAN (AP) -- Plans are moving forward to build a sludge composting facility in Ward Cove for the Ketchikan Gateway Borough.

The facility is scheduled to be put out to bid within a month and built by April, said Borough Public Works Director Dick Smith.

Smith estimates the new composting facility will cost the borough between $500,000 and $1 million. To help pay for the composting facility, the borough instituted a $15 a month fee on April 1.

The fee is collected quarterly and assessed to all borough residents who live outside of city limits and are on the road system. It also will go to pay for the pumping of individual septic systems.

The city of Ketchikan was processing sludge from the borough's wastewater treatment plants and individual septic tanks outside of city limits. But last year, Ketchikan informed the borough that the city was violating its permit and could be fined because it was processing borough sludge.

That left the borough scrambling to figure out what to do with the sludge from some 1,500 households, numerous businesses and several wastewater treatment plants.

Since then, the borough has been treating sludge at its Mountain Point Treatment Plant and storing treated sludge at Ward Cove. That sludge eventually will be composted once the composting facility is built, Smith said.

The new treatment system will use a three-step process to treat the sludge. First, the waste will be treated, then it will be pressed and finally the sludge will be composted.

The borough will press the sludge to reduce its water content, said Smith. ''If there is too much water, you don't get the bugs activated to start the compost process,'' he said.

After the sludge has been pressed, it will be composted by mixing it with wood and possibly fish waste. Smith said he hopes the wood waste will come from the borough-owned veneer plant. But if the plant does not open in time, Smith said the borough could use wood waste from the former Steve Seley lumber mill site or from Seley's current mill operation on Gravina Island.

If the borough uses fish waste, Smith said it could decide to bag and sell the compost for gardening.

The borough's compost system will create compost that is free of viruses and harmful bacteria, and suitable for human contact, Smith said.

''The stuff they are buying now at gardening shops probably came from a compost system down south,'' he said.

If the borough does not have enough compost to commercially market, Smith said it could sell the compost on an informal basis to local greenhouses and gardeners.

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