Lake and Pen communities continue backhaul efforts, hazardous waste first

Sep 23, 2015

Twelve villages have signed contracts to remove waste materials; just under half of the $976,000-dollar grant remains to be used by December 2016. 

Barrels staged for backhaul in Levelock, fall 2014.
Credit Lake and Peninsula Borough

Communities across the Lake and Peninsula Borough are continuing efforts to remove scrap metal and hazardous household waste. The nearly $1-million dollar project, launched in 2013, has proven logistically difficult.

Audio transcript:

How do you remove tons of rusted vehicles, old TVs and hazardous waste from 17 remote towns scattered across 300 miles?  

That was the task the Lake and Peninsula Borough took on in 2013 when they were granted $976-thousand dollars from the Coastal Impact Assessment Program, administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Ranya Aboras is the community development planner for the Borough. She says what was originally intended as a comprehensive backhaul project for all Borough communities had to be scaled back due to the prohibitively high cost of barge services. 

"We do realize that it might end up not being everything and the kitchen sink like originally promised – but to really program this, priorities needed to be set in place. The most hazardous of material goes first, when you have a finite budget."

E-waste in Levelock, fall 2014.
Credit Lake and Peninsula Borough

  Waste like trashed electronics ("e-waste") and lithium batteries are the most potentially hazardous, and will be the first to be shipped out in most communities. After that, Aboras says, communities may have to get creative in taking care of the more benign waste.

"If you have a lot of metal that can be buried, if you cut it up – certain communities have that capacity within their landfills so they’ve opted to bury it. Like the village of Newhalen, for instance, that’s how they’re doing it."

Aboras says the Borough aims to tailor its approach to each community’s situation. They’ve purchased a plasma cutter and other equipment to lend out as needed, and rely on IGAP coordinators and local employees to carry out the work.

Igiugig landfill, before and after backhaul. Photo taken spring 2015.
Credit Lake and Peninsula Borough

And she says some villages have had success working together. The Chignik communities, for example, drew on an existing relationship with a barge company...

"So they were able to call Northland and have them deliver a Conex. They will fill it, and then Northland will come by again in the spring of 2016 and pick it up." 

Twelve villages have now signed contracts with the Borough to carry out the scrap removal, and three more communities plan to do so. Two villages – Egegik and the now-empty Ivanof Bay – are not participating in the project.

Aboras says all the backhaul work is scheduled to be finished by December of 2016.