The Talkeetna wastewater lagoons tested out of compliance for fecal coliform bacteria in the month of June.
In a report filed with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, the Mat-Su Borough reports that the level of colony forming units of the bacteria tested at over 300. The daily maximum for the lagoon’s permit is forty units.
Talkeetna’s wastewater treatment facility has struggled with fecal coliform levels during the summer months for the last few years. Borough officials have met with ADEC in order to discuss the resolution of multiple violations of the lagoon’s permit. Those talks have not been made public, but the sewer and water system could face massive fines under the letter of the permit.
Borough Public Works Director Terry Dolan says the test results are disappointing. As with last year, results for May showed the system in compliance, followed by a significant violation of fecal coliform in June.
One change from previous years is that the lagoon stopped discharging once the violation was detected. Terry Dolan says repairs in the last year have slowed the rate of groundwater infiltration into the system, making it possible to hold wastewater for longer and allow for additional treatment time.
Talkeetna’s sewer lagoon operates largely on natural processes to neutralize bacteria and other contaminants before the water is released into the Talkeetna River. The borough has attempted to aid that process by mechanically aerating the lagoons, skimming grease from the surface, replanting vegetation, and correcting an issue that was shortcutting the treatment time. Crews are also continuing work to found groundwater infiltration points into the sewer pipes.
Terry Dolan says wastewater that flows into the facility stays there for almost a year before being released. He believes that means that neither the borough nor ADEC will know whether continued efforts to improve the existing system are effective until next summer.
In the meantime, Dolan is pursuing a potential capital upgrade from the U.S. Department of Agriculture should bringing the current system into continual compliance prove impossible.
The next round of tests will be taken in August.