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To address compliance issues, CBJ works to improve wastewater operations

March 18, 2021 – News

The City and Borough of Juneau is currently working through a formal process to correct violations to its state wastewater permits. Earlier this month, CBJ entered into a Compliance Order by Consent (the Order) with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). The Order is an enforcement action that was taken as a result of wastewater permit exceedances that occurred at the Juneau-Douglas and Mendenhall wastewater treatment plants between 2015 and 2019. During a routine inspection, DEC determined that discharge from both plants exceeded the parameters of CBJ’s permits. The Order requires several compliance actions and payment of a $64,000 fine.

In 2019, CBJ hired consulting firm Tetra Tech to conduct a review of CBJ’s permit exceedances, to identify causes, and to recommend corrective actions. Tetra Tech determined the exceedances at the Juneau-Douglas treatment plant primarily occurred in the summer of 2017 during a major construction project, which reduced the treatment capacity of the plant. At the Mendenhall treatment plant, violations were linked to high strength influent, i.e. wastewater coming into the plant that is stronger than typical domestic sewage from residences and businesses, and therefore harder to treat. Read the full Tetra Tech report here.

CBJ Utilities and engineering staff are working on several projects and operational strategies to address the issues leading to the Order. These efforts include upgrades to the plants through capital improvements projects, as well as source control efforts to better monitor and control wastes coming into the plants. Residents and businesses can also help by ensuring that high strength wastes, such as fats, oils, grease, and food waste, are kept out of the sewer system. Toxic substances such as petroleum products should never be put down the drain.

Updates on the development of the Order and improvement projects have been given to the Assembly’s Public Works and Facilities Committee (February 2, 2021 and March 2, 2020), as well as the Utilities Advisory Board. Additional updates will be provided to those committee as the projects progress.

For more information, contact Utilities Engineer Lori Sowa or Utilities Superintendent Brian McGuire at 586-0393.