Juneau vets other options as sending sludge south gets spendy

The Juneau Utility Advisory Board has new recommendations on how the municipality should deal with its waste. Right now, about 7,000 tons of the city’s sludge is barged to Oregon — costing about $2 million a year.

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City engineer Rorie Watt said the advisory board met multiple times over the past year to discuss solutions.

“What the utility board essentially found is that indeed that they agree the dryer is our best option.”

Watt said think of the dryer as a big oven. It turns the waste into pellets which can then be used for topsoil, revegetation or road projects.

The upfront cost would be more than $16 million dollars, and it would be located in the Mendenhall Wastewater Treatment Plant.

“If we built the dryer and depending on fuel prices, operating the dryer is probably only around $800,000 a year.”

The lifespan of the dryer is about 20 years. Another option: contract with a private company that would bury the waste on land in South Douglas. Partners Bicknell and Backfill, Inc. are proposing barging the city’s waste to 100 acres of remote land. The company would be called Juneau Monofill.

The operational cost is about $1.8 million a year–more than the dryer option–but the upfront costs are less. Juneau Monofill is asking for a 10-year contract with the city, with the option to cancel in five.

At a meeting on Monday, Juneau Assembly member Debbie White said she wanted to hear more about the company’s plans.

“I started out with this thinking I wanted the dryer, but the fact is I like the idea of getting some time for technology to catch up to where we’re at.”

The dryer option would take about 18 months to get started. With permitting, it’s unknown how long until the monofill could be operational. The assembly asked the Utility Advisory Board to come back with more information for their next meeting.