Urban water & wastewater: Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

Author:White, Rindi

In the Mat-Su Borough, most households indirectly rely on the Municipality of Anchorage for wastewater treatment, so called septage treatment for the waste pumped from septic tanks. It's a situation that some in the borough would like to see changed. One solution, a new septage treatment facility, is costly--$17 million for a system recommended recently by Mat-Su Borough engineering contractor HDR Alaska.

Meanwhile, the Valley's two main municipal wastewater treatment facilities, located in Palmer and Wasilla, are both operating with provisional permits while each tries to address disposal problems.

Mat-Su's Wastewater Secret

According to information from the Mat-Su Borough, more than 90 percent of households in Mat-Su process their wastewater using septic tanks. Septage haulers pump the tanks and transport the effluent to Anchorage for discharge. Although the cities of Wasilla and Palmer have wastewater treatment facilities, neither is set up to receive septic waste.

"Mat-Su septage haulers travel approximately five hundred thousand miles annually on the Glenn Highway to dispose of borough wastewater, and estimate each trip to the Anchorage receiving station costs $229, of which $179 is allocated to travel time, fuel operations, and maintenance of the haul trucks. The remaining amount, $50, is paid to Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility to offset the maintenance and operational costs associated with the receipt, pre-treatment, and disposal of septage in their wastewater system," borough officials stated in a funding request to Govenor Sean Parnell earlier this year.

The borough is seeking funding for land and engineering. Earlier this year, $100,000 was set aside by the Assembly for land acquisition, but Mat-Su Borough Environmental Engineer and Project Manager Mike Campfield says more would likely be needed. The borough is seeking a minimum of forty acres for the facility, and they'd like to put it near the intersection of the Parks and Glenn highways.

Campfield says having the Mat-Su Borough Assembly set aside money for land for the facility is a big step, along with permission from the body to pursue additional funding from the state. While people in the wastewater treatment industry might be familiar with the problem, most residents are not even aware their waste goes to Anchorage.

"Most people don't know where their septic waste goes. They pay the septic hauler and it's gone," Campfield says.

Then there's the question of how long...

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