The City of Seward opened three much-awaited bids for the city lagoon sludge removal projects this (Monday) afternoon. There were three bids altogether, with one company, Lake Point Environmental Group, deciding not to bid. The lowest bid came from Merrell Brothers, a very large sludge removal firm based in Indiana, which focuses on dredging wastewater facilities, and had recently done sludge removal projects in Dillingham and North Pole, Alaska, according to Michael L. Foster & Associates engineer Loren Leman. That bid was $3.98 million. The next highest was from Lakloey, Inc., for $6.8 million. The highest was a $7.4 million bid from Central Environmental, of Anchorage.
No details were revealed at the bid-opening about the method chosen by each company to do the work required—only the cost, which was revealed by Public Works Technician Nancy Perea, who opened each envelope at the 2:00 p.m. designated time. The city administration will now consider the bids and recommend one for council approval, typically the lowest one, unless there are issues uncovered.
The work involves dredging and removing 1,900 tons of sewage sludge-or biosolids- from the two City of Seward aerated lagoons—the one at Seward Marine Industrial Center (SMIC), used mostly by Spring Creek Correctional Center inmates and staff, and the one at Lowell Point, used by residents of the city, and not dredged for more than two decades. The project includes correcting treating the wastewater while the project takes place, and improvements to both lagoons as needed once they are drained.
Ironically, those who live at Lowell Point are not hooked up to the city wastewater system. But they have been attending city council meetings for more than a year, complaining about the odors coming from the lagoon, particularly during the tourist season, and in warm weather or when the wind blows.
After more than 20 years of not being dredged, with an 8-9 year dredging schedule typically recommended, the Lowell Point lagoon is long overdue for maintenance. With a particularly busy tourist season underway and some days the town seeing two cruise ships, the air from the lagoon has been particularly odoriferous. Residents of the area are demanding monitoring of the Hydrogen Sulfide it emits, for signs of danger to their health, and several claim it affects their breathing, their sleep, physical and mental health, and is hurting their lodging or campground businesses.
The City’s original Request for Proposal (RFP) was amended to have all work completed by June 15, 2015. It allows the sludge to be taken to the same SMIC site as was used to house sludge material from lagoon dredging back in the 1990’s and stored there according to the correct regulatory practices, for up to three years. There’s also a new tipping fee for disposing of the sludge at the Central Peninsula Landfill in Soldotna that adds a $500,000-$600,000 cost to the project.
A representative at the bid opening from Central Environmental was surprised by the lowest bid. He noted that the bid was almost three million dollars lower than his companies’ bid, although his company is closer, and he wondered how the company could do the job for that price. It has been suggested that the sludge might be removed by using a barge to ship it directly from both facilities to a place like Seattle, rather than requiring truck transport through town from SMIC to Lowell Point, and then many miles overland to the Central Peninsula Landfill in Soldotna.
W.C. Casey said the city had earlier hoped to do the project for under $3 million, but realized that they should be flexible due to the project’s variable nature, including three recent addenda to the RFP, suggested by contractors, residents and council members.
The lagoon issue will be featured on Anchorage TV Channel 2 NBC News this evening (Monday), and Lowell Point residents are expected to testify at tonight’s Seward City Council meeting.