Juneau pushes fecal cliff out 3 more months

The City and Borough of Juneau has bought three more months to avert a fecal cliff.

The city has extended its contract with Waste Management to dispose of processed municipal sewage through March. It was previously set to expire with the new year.

“I guess the cliff has been stayed,” said City Engineering Director Rorie Watt.

Waste Management has been shipping the partially processed sludge to a landfill in Oregon. It’s been reluctant to continue doing so indefinitely because of odor and shipping issues.

Now, city staffers are working on a proposal that would improve processing at the Mendenhall Valley Wastewater Treatment Plant and buy even more time. Most of Juneau’s sewage passes through that facility.

About $3 million in upgrades there would let the plant turn sewage into biosolids that meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s minimum level for recycling as fill or fertilizer, Watt said.

“It wouldn’t be the final thing that we do, but it would give us stability in the short run in our shipping, it would lower our volume that we produce, and it would hopefully feed into what our long term solution is,” Watt said.

Disposing of the stuff has been problematic since the city’s sewage sludge incinerator went offline in 2010.