By Associated Press - Thursday, March 2, 2017

KETCHIKAN, Alaska (AP) - Regulators in Alaska have notified owners of private and government wastewater systems in Ketchikan that the systems don’t meet federal water quality standards.

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation delivered letters to the Ketchikan Gateway Borough and area homeowners who rely on common ocean outfall sewer systems on Feb. 17 saying that the department is establishing new state permits that tighten water quality standards, The Ketchikan Daily News reported Wednesday ( ).

Common outfalls are used by multiple, not individual, homes and the wastewater spilling from them has already been treated. There are about 30 common outfall systems in Ketchikan and as many as 40 in Southeast Alaska as a whole.

The DEC is taking over enforcement of federal regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency. The DEC notified homeowners they will now require monthly water tests to tighten regulations on bacteria content of water entering the ocean. The new tests could cost homeowners up to $2,000 each year for outfall systems.

If the outfall system doesn’t meet the tighter standards, neighborhoods would be forced to work with the DEC to install another layer of disinfection to their systems.

Wade Strickland, DEC’s wastewater program manager, said the DEC has been taking over the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination Program from the EPA in phases. He said the possibility of adding a chemical disinfectant to common outfall systems is the biggest change.

“Some of these facilities have really high bacteria loading that’s discharged into the marine waters, and we would like to work with these facilities to evaluate how best to control those bacteria discharges to make sure we’re being protective of public health and the environment,” he said.

The notice homeowners received was an advanced notice. The DEC will next schedule a 45-day public comment period and scheduled a public meeting in Ketchikan for the spring.

Ketchikan real estate agent Bill Elberson said the DEC is unfairly targeting Ketchikan and Southeast Alaska, where common outfall systems are common. He said the state has spent years dreaming of new restrictions instead of working with property owners to install and operate functioning wastewater systems.

“The only people that were making systems cooperate were the banks, the lending agents, and the Realtors,” Elberson said. “We would test every house we sold. We would test and either get it fixed or get it replaced. … DEC has not been here - they’ve never had anybody here.”


Information from: Ketchikan (Alaska) Daily News,

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