Local News

Assembly awards contract for water treatment facility

The Sitka Assembly voted Tuesday night to award a $5.5-million contract to Dawson Construction to build a new UV Disinfection Facility at the Gary Paxton Industrial Park. The facility will treat water from Blue Lake, and bring Sitka’s primary source of drinking water into compliance with federal regulations.

But before voting, the assembly needed a refresher on why the project is necessary.

As the assembly took up the motion to approve the contract, member Pete Esquiro asked, “I’d like for somebody to remind me why we’re doing this?”

That task fell to Environmental Superintendent Mark Buggins, who explained that the system is necessary to meet federal drinking water standards.

Buggins: It’s a federal drinking water requirement to have a secondary barrier for pathogens, particularly protozoa…

Esquiro: So they’ll cut us off if we don’t do it?

Buggins: Yeah. Yeah, they’d be taking somebody to jail.

Assembly member Phyllis Hackett: Who?! 

Buggins: The administrator.

Hackett: Oh!

“The city administrator or mayor,” clarified city finance director Jay Sweeney, who is serving as acting city administrator while Mark Gorman is out of town. Sweeney said that if Sitka chose to simply ignore the mandate, it would first face fines from the Environmental Protection Agency. But it could face other consequences.  “Realistically, that is a risk. Either the administrator or the mayor could be arrested if we were in noncompliance.”

“I would like to see this passed, then,” said Deputy Mayor Matt Hunter, to laughter. Hunter is serving as acting mayor while Mim McConnell is out of town.

All joking aside, Hunter said, “This is a federal mandate by the EPA for our drinking water…it’s something we don’t have a choice on.”

That federal mandate is called the Long Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule – or just Long Term 2. It’s aimed at reducing waterborne diseases.  Basically, it requires any community that gets its drinking water from a surface water source — any lake, river or reservoir — to add an extra layer of protection against the microorganisms that can be found in those waterways.

One main target is Cryptosporidium. It’s a microscopic parasite that can cause diarrhea and vomiting. Sitka currently disinfects its water with chlorine, but Cryptosporidium is resistant to chlorine. The new facility will use ultraviolet radiation to basically disrupt the DNA of microorganisms, making it impossible for them to reproduce, so they can’t infect anyone drinking the water.

Funding for the project is coming from the state Department of Environmental Conservation: the city has received about $5.5-million in grants from the state, along with about $6.5-million in loans.

If all goes according to schedule, the contractor will break ground this fall and finish the project by August 2015.

***

The Assembly also voted to lease space at the Sitka Airport to UPS. And assembly members approved an $840,000 contract with CBC Construction to replace two aging lift stations, one on Lake Street and one on Monastery Street. The lift stations are part of the city sewer system.

You can find more coverage of the Sitka Assembly here.

Comments

Please read our comment guidelines.

Recent News

Ensnared doe recovering after wire loop removed

The doe suffered only minor injuries from the wire. The GPS collar will release on its own next summer. (ADF&G photo/Phil Mooney)
A deer found with a wire around its neck near Sitka has was safely released by wildlife authorities late last week. But another deer may be suffering from the same -- possibly malicious -- predicament. Phil Mooney, a biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish & Game, successfully darted and tranquilized the adult doe near the Indian River Road on Friday (9-12-14). more

Despite embargo, salmon caviar grows on everyone — but us!

140915_RachelWaldholz_mcclear
When Alaskans fish for salmon, most are hoping to bring home those gorgeous -- not to mention delicious -- red fillets for the barbecue, freezer, or canning jar. When the fish are cleaned, the long skeins of pink or red eggs often go overboard with everything else. Not so in the commercial fishing industry, where salmon eggs -- or roe -- have become big business. Russia’s embargo of American seafood has been a setback to Alaska’s caviar industry, but demand for the product is growing elsewhere. more