Heidi Zemach for SCN -
Lowell Creek residents and visitors were upset by the stench that returned to their community from the city lagoon last weekend. Some who had planned to stay at that most popular Seward scenic beach area left early because of the smell, according to one local bed and breakfast owner. Nine residents filed odor complaints with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. The passive waste water facility’s smell been fairly mild to date this tourist season, but for some reason, perhaps two cruise ships and record high crowds in Seward going to the bathroom over the three day Mount Marathon Race weekend, hot weather, or simply a combination of ageing lagoon infrastructure, the lagoon began stinking badly again.
The good news is that unlike last year, when the lagoon stank in the spring, all summer and into the fall, the City Public Works Department has finally purchased four brand new, small-bubble water aerators, and is testing them in the lagoon’s north cell. These gray-and-white devises, and a control panel from ClearBlu Environmental, which cost $43,500, could be seen this week purposefully skimming around the surface of the water. They’re ready to begin operating once the Alaska Department of Conservation gives the City Public Works Department the okay, said department head W.C. Casey. The aerators will increase the oxygen levels in the lagoon, help the microorganisms in the lagoon digest the waste, and thus reduce the odors coming from the lagoon.
There’s also some sodium nitrate on the way to Seward, which will be added to the lift station by the waterfall that could help alleviate the stench, Casey said. It’s a salt-like substance frequently used by the wastewater industry to mitigate odors and increase nitrate levels in the water, which also promotes bacterial growth. This helps the bacteria clean the wastewater so it can be released back into Resurrection Bay.
These are considered temporary fix, and can be started up at any time this season without negative consequences to nearby residents or visitors, said Casey. Meanwhile, the more substantial sludge removal project, which is considered a longer-term fix, won’t start until after Labor Day.
The city issued an Invitation to Bid on July 10th for companies willing remove 4500 cubic yards of sludge from both the city lagoon at Lowell Point, accumulated over more than two decades, and sludge from the smaller lagoon at Spring Creek. The bid deadline is July 30th. The sludge disposal is part of the contract. The Kenai Peninsula Borough’s Central Peninsula Landfill is being offered as one location for its potential disposal.
The city has meanwhile given up on trying to get ADEC to reverse its repeated denial of the city’s March 2013 request for a waste water bypass permit for the SMIC Lagoon. If granted, the permit would have enabled the city to release wastewater coming from Spring Creek Correctional Center into Resurrection Bay while the smaller lagoon was being dredged. The plan now is to haul an estimated 50,000 gallons per day to the lagoon at Lowell Point while dredging the SMIC lagoon. “It’s really only a drop in the bucket,” Casey said. That amount would only increase the wastewater entering that lagoon by five percent.
The main city lagoon did not need a bypass permit as it is already divided into two distinct cells, thus allowing one section at a time to be dredged.
Sue Lang, a Lowell Point B&B and campground owner thanked Casey and the city administration at Monday night’s meeting for all of their efforts to try to address the problem, but admitted she was distressed that the stench was still causing problems for a second summer. She also asked that city road crews grade the road out to Lowell Point on Friday nights before the big crowds arrive. There have been frequent landslides and rock falls, that can make the narrow winding drive out to that seaside community quite perilous.