Opinions differ on monofill plan
Neighborhood concerns about a proposed Chugiak monofill are misplaced, say developers, who believe the facility offers numerous benefits to both the community and environment.
“When we do something like this, we look for multiple wins,” said Eklutna Inc. CEO Curtis McQueen.
The first ‘win,’ he said, is that it’s an environmentally friendly project.
Eklutna, the largest private landholder in the Municipality of Anchorage, is working in partnership with Central Recycling Services, an Anchorage-based company that recycles construction site and demolition waste.
Unlike traditional landfills — which often have few controls on what gets dumped — the monofill will only be used for “inert” construction waste that’s been processed through CRS’s sorting facility, said project manager Shane Durand.
The “mono” part of the word monofill refers to the fact the facility will only accept one type of waste product, he said.
During a tour of the facility near Ship Creek on Railroad Ave., Durand pointed out huge mounds of what looked a lot like dirt with a dash of styrofoam and carpet. Digging into the stuff with his bare hands, Durand said the material — which is nearly odorless — represents about 25 percent of what originally enters the facility as unprocessed debris.
“This is all that’s left,” he said.
Employees sort everything that arrives at CRS — from two-by-fours to drywall to copper wire — during a lengthy process that eventually separates out anything the company can use or sell. The rest ends up as the final waste product, which has no commercial value.
The company used to take its waste to the Anchorage Landfill. But at a meeting of the Chugiak Community Council on Jan. 17, Durand said CRS can no longer count on the muni to keep its rates constant.
“We need to be able to control the cost of our operations,” he said.
Durand was met at the meeting by a sizable contingent of residents from the Amonson Road area, which is located across the Old Glenn Highway from the proposed site. One of those residents, Scott Girard, said he’s worried the monofill will be a blight on the neighborhood.
“I don’t know it’s a good fit for the community,” Girard said.
Girard argued that the site could potentially lower property values, increase traffic on the Old Glenn and present a safety issue for walkers and cyclists who use the Old Glenn bike path. He acknowledged CRS is doing “a great job,” by recycling construction materials. But, he added, “it’s just not a great job we want to have in our community.”
A 1992 Chugiak High graduate, Durand himself lives in Eagle River. He said he’s sensitive to neighborhood concerns, but doesn’t think the project will have near the impact some fear. He said it’s likely most people won’t even know it’s there.
“I think we’re going to be an out of sight, out of mind situation,” he said.
And because the waste first goes through a thorough screening process that includes magnets, screens and even high-tech scanners, he said environmental concerns are minimal compared to a traditional landfill.
“There’s multiple different processes where we sort things out,” he said.
The proposed site is located off of Kerbow Lane and bordered by the Loretta French Sports Complex and the Old Glenn. The monofill would be located in ravine that Durand said will be slowly filled over the 20- to 30-year life of the project. When the site is full, he said, it will be covered and used as green space — much like Loretta French, which was once a gravel pit.
“Honestly, there’s not a lot else you can do with it,” he said of the land.
Eklutna’s McQueen said the Native corporation would like to see the monofill site eventually used to enhance the surrounding area.
“The end result’s going to be a big lawn,” he said.
Among the project’s other benefits, McQueen said, are its potential for creating jobs, lowering overall construction costs and contributing to more sustainable building practices.
“The construction industry is going green,” he said. “And this fits with that.”
The monofill site is still in the planning phase and has yet to receive all the necessary permits and approvals. However, McQueen and Durand said they’re hopeful the facility can be up and running by this summer.
Before that happens, Durand said he wants to allay any fears Chugiak residents might have about the project. That’s why he’s been going door-to-door in the area, answering questions and doing his best to explain the project.
He said he welcomes anyone interested in touring the company’s processing plant to stop by.
“We have absolutely no reason to hide anything,” he said.
CRS began operations in 2009, but the company is an offshoot of Central Environmental Inc., which Durand said has been operating in Alaska since 1989. He said he believes the company has built a strong reputation for doing things right over the years.
“I’m proud of what we do,” he said.
McQueen said the company’s reputation was a big reason Eklutna decided to partner with them.
“We wanted to hang our hat with a company with a stellar track record,” he said.
Durand said he hopes area residents will continue to ask questions about the project, and he said he’ll continue to make himself available to anyone who has concerns.
“We want to be a good neighbor going forward,” he said.