Pumps installed at the Talkeetna sewer lagoon to introduce more oxygen into the system. Photo: Mark Cowley – Mat-Su Borough
Citing test results for August that continue to be out of compliance, officials in charge of the Talkeetna sewer system are taking additional steps they hope will improve treatment. KTNA’s Phillip Manning has more:
Last month, KTNA reported that the water flowing out of Talkeetna’s sewage treatment lagoon was outside of compliance for its permit for the amount of fecal coliform present. In August, fecal coliform remains out of compliance, at about five times the allowed level. While high, that number is down from July’s results, which were nearly seven times the permitted limit.
Terry Dolan is the Director of Public Works for the Mat-Su Borough, which oversees the system. He says that, while there has been measurable progress, it hasn’t been enough.
“So what that means is the repairs and the additional work that we’ve done previously this summer are insufficient, at least insufficient to help the lagoons recover fast enough to satisfy me.”
Now, what the borough has begun doing to try to improve the situation is aeration. Dolan says that pumps have been installed in the lagoons that circulate wastewater, and then spray it through the air back into the lagoon. He says that introducing more air into the mix can help break down unwanted bacteria.
“Spraying through the air and the splashing action of the water as it mixes back into the lagoon helps mix additional oxygen into the water. That oxygen helps encourage the growth of bacteria that’s aerobic, and it displaces the bad bacteria that we’re trying to get out of the water in the treatment system.”
What Terry Dolan and his staff do not know yet is whether the aeration will be made permanent. He says the system is designed so that it shouldn’t need artificial means to introduce oxygen, and that it’s possible that the system could stabilize again. They will be waiting on this month’s test results to see what needs to happen next.
“If the September numbers and we’re not satisfied with the progress we’re making, we’re going to more than likely add additional aeration at that point.”
Dolan says it’s clear that, in its current state, the sewer treatment system cannot handle the volume that it receives in the busy summer months. If the system cannot be re-stabilized, then a more permanent solution will be necessary. Funding then becomes the major obstacle if that is the case.
“We haven’t made a decision on that, a long term decision, at this point. Of course, the big challenge with these lagoons is funding. The revenue stream from sewer and water subscribers isn’t really sufficient to do any capital improvements on this.”
The borough has applied for state funds to address the Talkeetna lagoon, but Terry Dolan says the state’s budget woes prevented that. He says there are other options, such as the Alaska Clean Water Fund, and that those options are being explored in case permanent fixes are necessary. Until then, borough staff is hoping that the current measures will make it so that the system can function on its own again.