Petersburg sewer project wins federal recognition

Scow Bay in the distance and Petersburg’s ferry terminal as seen from the top of Petersburg Mountain. (Photo by Joe Viechnicki/KFSK)

The Environmental Protection Agency has singled out a sewer pump station replacement project in Petersburg as a good example of saving energy and using federal funding to repair infrastructure.

It’s hard to get too excited about a community sewer system, until something goes wrong with it. But Petersburg is being recognized for replacing one part of its system, and that’s before something big does happen. The borough is replacing a sewer pump station near Scow Bay more than a mile south of downtown. The project is using a low-cost revolving loan program from the state that’s funded by the federal agency. Suzanne Skadowski is with the EPA’s region 10 office in Seattle.

“So the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation they receive grants every year from EPA, as do other states, and they invest that money into a fund that is available to local organizations and utilities to get low-cost financing for their water infrastructure projects,” Skadowski said. “And this is how a lot of projects around the country get made is through those low-cost loans.”

Petersburg’s project was nominated by the Alaska DEC and was an honorable mention winner. It was among four recognized by the EPA this year in a region that includes Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

“The Petersburg borough was one of those projects that is going to save them, you know it’s going to save them quite a bit of money on their energy costs,” said Skadowski. “It’s also going to increase their reliability and resiliency.”

Replacement of the Scow Bay pump station one could lower energy costs by more than 50 percent for the pumps used to move sewage to a treatment plant across town. As for reliability, borough utility director Karl Hagerman told the borough assembly this month that the existing pump station has been overwhelmed by storm water flow and expansion of the sewer system south of downtown. He explained the old pumps and controls are underground and prone to flooding.

“The new station will be have submersible pumps and a control cabinet that is above ground and so we won’t have any issues with possible damage to the controls if a flood occurs,” Hagerman said. “And of course the goal is not to have a flood at all so the pumps will be increased capacity and more efficient as well.”

The borough assembly voted in November to award the project to local company Rock-N-Road Construction for just over $445,000. Hagerman writes in an email that he’s pleased with the recognition and excited to have it completed in the next year. Local voters in October also approved an additional $8 million of repairs and replacements to the sewer and water system over the next five years.