Lone sewage pump station serving entire Homer Spit is ailing

Jan 13, 2021

One aging lift station serves the entire sewage needs of the Homer Spit.
Credit Photo KBBI Database

The Homer City Council Monday night moved forward an approximately $20,000 expenditure to figure out which solution would be best for solving an on-going issue with the lone sewer pump-station that serves the Homer Spit.
    “So that particular lift station happens to collect all the sewage that comes off the spit.”
    Public Works Director Jan Keiser addressed the city council during its Committee of the Whole meeting on Monday. She said the lower volume of sewer in the wintertime has been causing serious problems for years.
    “Well, the problem with the sewage that comes off the Spit is that it sits for a while and it's sewer in the pipe because there just isn't a lot of flow, particularly in the winter. As the stuff sits there in the pipe, it generates sulfuric acid. So this highly acidic stuff gets into the lift station, and this is a big manhole in which all the valves, the pumps and the gizmos that operate this pump station sit,” Keiser said. “So it's all sitting in this highly corrosive solution of stuff, and that has been eating away the equipment, causing corrosion issues on the equipment. And it's also been eating away, the concrete that the manhole is made out of.”
    The lift station is about 30 years old, and Keiser said she’s surprised it hasn’t failed already.
    “It's a dangerous situation, first of all, for people to get in and maintain the stuff. And also it's causing highly corrosive corrosion to occur in the equipment and the lining of the manhole,” she said. “The worst case scenario is the corrosion eats through the concrete, which has been known to happen in some places. And then leakage starts out into the Beluga area.”
    Keiser says there are two options that need to be studied before moving ahead.
    “One idea, for example, is to put another big manhole beside the existing one and put all the equipment in one manhole so that it's dry and have the sewage go into another manhole so that at least the equipment is not actively in contact with the highly corrosive sewage. The other idea would be to drain the tank and line it with a special fiberglass lining, which prevents corrosion from eating away the manhole. But then we still have the equipment issue,” Keiser said. “So there's a few options available to the best way to solve the problem. And the purpose of the engineering is to help us figure out the most cost-effective and operationally effective solution to solving this corrosion problem.”
    Councilmember Heath Smith wondered if there might be a different, more practical solution.
    “We do quite a bit of flushing in the system, I believe. I mean, would it be possible to flush that out? Could that possibly be part of the flushing of that water is moving through the sewer pipeline, especially in the winter to kind of clear that out so it's not sitting as long. I don't know if that's a long-term solution or anything, but, but it's just something that came to mind,” Smith said.
     “So there is some flushing that goes on, on the Spit, out on the far end of the Spit. We do a certain amount of flushing just to keep the water in the water supply line well, fresh, if you will. And we could put that in the sewer line, but then it causes problems. The more water we put into the sewer line, the more water than goes into the treatment plant, which creates issues,” Keiser responded. “So it it's, it's kind of six and one half dozen of the other as you solve one problem, and then another problem pops its head up downstream. And what we want to make sure is is that we don't take a short-sighted solution for what is a long-term problem.”
    Mayor Ken Castner wondered about other treatments as well, perhaps to the equipment.
    “Is there a way to chemically treat the pump end, you know, where things are sitting in that concrete, is there a chemical treatment that could offset that corrosion?” Castner asked.
    “Possibly, but the problem we have right now is the equipment and there's one wet well where the equipment and the, and the sewage are all in the same manhole. And so, putting something in there to neutralize that might cause some issues with the equipment. One of our best solutions right now is to actually put in a wet well itself. So it takes all the sewage, and all the equipment is dry. And then the options for treating, neutralizing, the sewage would be better.”
    “I think what you just said is the way to go in the long term,” Castner said.
    The ordinance will come back before the council for a public hearing and second reading on January 25.