It Didn't Smell Bad
Sewer systems, like septic tanks, are never fully appreciated until they fail. When was the last time you thanked a sewer plant manager? Which may be why the Haines plant operators, Dennis and Scott, seemed so happy to see us and answer our questions. The tour was for all of the borough assembly, but only Tom, myself, and the mayor took advantage of the opportunity, and I know that Tom and I sometimes drive the mayor and Brad ( who is the facilities manager and hosted the tour), crazy with our questions and concerns, so it was an opportunity to bond. I had a good time. I think they did too.
We were shown the office first, which smelled fruity. Scott's wife sells candles in her store, and a scented pillar gently flickered on a counter, and then the intake room (that smelled like a sewer should), then walked outside and back into the big metal barn with the concrete swimming pool-looking tank churning away, and all the fans and blowers keeping the air dry and circulating. Tom said, loudly the way he does, and also to be heard over the din, something like-- Let's cut to the chase here: I'm a piece of poop. How do I come into the plant, and how do I leave, and what happens in between-- Which was funny on several levels. (Poop is like underpants, the word makes people laugh, even though we all do it, and we all wear them, mostly anyway, which is not say this tour isn't serious business.)
Scott and Dennis walked us through from start to finish, the intake, the filters, the two chutes that the non-organic solids are caught in-- the things you shouldn't flush basically-- (not as much as you'd think, two wheelbarrows are parked under the chutes,and take a day or more to fill), the steaming compost in the dump truck at the back door where more organic solids end up after the pool is stirred and bubbled until its contents is all liquid and ready to be pumped out a pipe and into Portage Cove. Haines is permitted for primary treatment.
We learned all kinds of other things too, like how they know when the brewery is brewing beer and the distillery is making gin from the spent grains caught in the new filters, that grease traps in commercial kitchens aren't cleaned enough and make major clogs, and baby wipes wreak havoc, and like grease, cost the borough money in time and materials when they are flushed (plus it's no fun for Scott and Dennis to deal with.) The sewage pool is 18 feet deep from the top of the wall, so don't fall in. (I had asked about the life jacket hanging near the edge), and when you take medications, after you flush they become an invisible part of the stream heading into the plant and back to the sea, so think about that. Scott also said never flush any old meds down the toilet, rather dispose of them through the clinic or the police.