Jacobs Engineering has been awarded a contract to complete the design of a pretreatment facility at the borough landfill to prevent contamination of nearby groundwater.

When completed, the pretreatment facility will help reduce the calcification build up that occurs in the removal of water that has percolated through a solid and leached out some of the constituents. The resulting toxic chemical is called leachate, and it can potentially contaminate nearby groundwater, land and waterways if not treated.

The contract for design completion is valued at $190,000. Jacobs already had conducted previous designs, according to Matt Gandel, the borough’s project manager. 

The new contract adds additional services to a previous contract the Borough Assembly approved in June for Jacobs to conduct design services to push past a 30% design phase. Assembly members in June pushed for designing and eventually constructing a larger facility as a way to adapt to future requirements.

According to Gandel, the leachate treatment facility has been sustaining calificiation issues for years, affecting treatment tanks, pipes and increasing labor time to deal with the problem.  

Gandel said that the pre-treatment facility will help mix chemicals and remove the calcium before entering the main treatment facility.

The pre-treatment facility also fulfills a key component in a settlement agreement with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. 

The borough settled with DEC in December 2020 following an investigation that found numerous alleged violations from issues that started in 2017, including increased ammonia levels. Ammonia levels are strongly regulated by the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Now-interim borough manager Dave Conrad told the Borough Assembly in June that two issues of elevated ammonia discharge were due to record rainfall that mingled in with the leachate.  

“It takes a little more money to complete the design,” Gandel said last week. The additional costs include time and labor for designing the increased building size, as well as for Jacobs to coordinate with bidders on the building construction and review engineering specifications from companies. 

In a staff report to the borough, Jacobs Engineering estimated the pre-treatment facility could cost as much as $2 million to build, up from $1.2 million at the original 30% design phase.

Gandel said the borough’s architectural review board approved the 80% design in late September and hopes to get the project out to bid soon.

The borough obtained a $1.5 million State Revolving Fund loan package to help pay for the project. 



Gandel said the borough will be applying for a U.S. Department of Agriculture low-interest loan or grant to help fund the project.

According to Gandel, the USDA currently offers low interest loans at 1.75% over 40 years with the potential of a 45% grant if qualifications are met.

“The discussions with the USDA to date have been promising,” Gandel said.

Assembly Member Jared Griffin asked what qualifications the borough needs to qualify for the federal grants or loans.

A USDA loan has its own stipulations, including the requirement of a full-time onsite engineer to inspect the project. As part of the new contract, Jacobs will provide an engineer to be onsite one week out of the month during the construction phase.

“The USDA does seem amenable to this,” Gandel said. “This is a time and materials element of the contract, so if we don’t need an inspection we don’t pay for it. This is not a lump sum contract.”

Gandel said the borough is not accustomed to having onsite inspectors. 

“We have brought down speciality inspectors when required,” Gandel said. “The USDA just has different nuances to ensure that we are going to build a successful plant.” 

Gandel said the borough also had to redefine its solid waste service areas to lower the demographics served. The city of Kodiak, the borough’s largest service area, had to be broken up further to comply with USDA parameters. 

The borough will also have to supply data on types of waste collected, “something we’ve never had to do with other grant and loan programs.”

The USDA loan would also pay for another landfill-related project, estimated at $1.13 million based on 30% design concepts. The project will create an interim closure on part of the landfill on “the sides and top portion of the landfill to minimize the amount of rainwater that converts to leachate,” according Gandel’s report.

He said the borough’s landfill permit with the state allows solid waste to be stored up to a certain elevation before it needs to be closed using a variety of liners and plant material on top of it. According to Gandel, the interim closure “will be installed on approximately 2.6 acres on the current top deck of the existing landfill.

The current elevation of the landfill segment sits at a height of 250 feet, and has a maximum allowance of 270 feet.

The closures would convert rainfall into storm water, thus reducing the amount of water passing through the stored trash.

“By converting the rain to stormwater this will lessen the amount of the leachate that needs to be treated,” he said. “The closures will help alleviate some of the issues we are having at the leachate treatment plant by decreasing the amount of the leachate.”


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