City looking at 'donut hole' in water and sewer service

Sep 15, 2020

Residents of Tasmania Court are seeking city water service.
Credit KBBI/GoogleEarth

Residents of one street above Homer High School may see city water in their future. The council is considering ways to bring water to Tasmania Court.
    Erica Marley lives on the street, which she calls an older, established neighborhood.
    “It's extremely frustrating to have water within 200 feet in any direction of Tasmania and Tasmania Court and not be able to have water to our houses,” she said.
    Nearby residents further up the hill are all in favor of their neighbors getting water service, but since they already have the service themselves, they don’t want to be included in any assessment district formed to pay for the water.
    That’s fine with Marley, who says the water can come from any direction.
    “I know there's been some discussion about whether to bring the water down from up above or up from below, and I think most of the lot owners would agree that as long as there's adequate pressure from coming up from below, and we have water one way or the other, it makes no difference to us,” Marley said.
    There’s an issue with providing that street with water service, and that is that the homes there are not on city sewer, and all use septic systems. Homer City Engineer Jan Keiser said that city water could shorten the life of the septic systems significantly.
    “Because as a practical matter, Homer is notorious for its bad soils and high ground water and poorly performing septic systems. If they're not failed now, the chances are good they will fail sometime within the next five to 10 years. City water households typically use more water because it's better, and it flows freely out of a pipe rather than being pumped or hauled. And this exacerbates the septic issue,” Keiser said. “So it's a troubling question that right now we do not have a good answer in code for.”
    Councilmember Rachel Lord urged the engineering department to further explore the issue.
    “Extending water without sewer is something that raises my eyebrows, and I’m not sure we do it, generally,” she said.
    Keiser said requiring water and sewer service together is not currently in city code, but City Councilmember Heath Smith volunteered to help her address the issue.
    “So Jan, I'd be willing to work with you on getting that done because I think it has to happen. So, let's get together,” Smith said.
    “Very good,” said Keiser, adding, “for what it's worth, we at the engineering department of public works support such an action.”
    Keiser pointed out that the residents of Tasmania Court are only considering a water connection at this point, but thinks that they might want to replace their septic system for city sewer, which can be less expensive than going it alone when their system eventually fails.