WATER QUALITY MANAGEMENT
RESEARCH  NEEDS FOR ALASKA
 FEDERAL WATER QUALITY ADMINISTRATION
                    NORTHWEST REGION
            ALASKA WATER LABORATORY
                        College, Alaska

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WATER QUALITY MANAGEMENT RESEARCH NEEDS FOR ALASKA


                        by


       .^v=ftw,.   Sidney E. Clark
                   Presented at

             The Governor's Symposium
      Alaska's Research Needs for the 1970's
     University of Alaska, August 17-19, 1970
                     for the

       FEDERAL WATER QUALITY ADMINISTRATION

            DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR

             ALASKA WATER LABORATORY

                  COLLEGE, ALASKA


               Working Paper No. 6

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A Working Paper presents results of investigations
which are to some  extent limited or incomplete.
Therefore, conclusions or recommendations—expressed
or implied—are tentative.

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           WATER QUALITY MANAGEMENT RESEARCH NEEDS FOR ALASKA
                           By Sidney E.  Clark

     Alaska is a large state, as large as Texas,  California and Montana
together.  Alaska has great wealth in natural resources,  of which water
is very important.  With nearly 34,000 miles of coastline and approxi-
mately 40 percent of America's fresh water resources,  Alaska has a lot
to be proud of, as well as a huge responsibility.
     The Arctic and Subarctic climates impose severe stresses on ecosystems
without man's influence.  Man's influence must be carefully managed to
minimize detrimental effects.  There are three major elements in water
quality management that must be clearly understood before consistent
predictable results are available.  They are:
     1.  Appropriate social and government structuring to take im-
      mediate advantage of known planning and management  knowledge and
     resources.
     2.  Design criteria for waste water treatment in  cold regions,
     including various types of industrial wastes that are presently
     being discharged or may be anticipated, for the future.
     3.  Appropriate water quality criteria for all  areas of the State.
     The three elements are of equal importance;  one cannot be separated
from the others.  Unlike the other states, there has not  been a large
volume of baseline data collected, therefore, the present water quality
standards, based on the best information available,  do have weaknesses
that will require strengthening as the baseline conditions become better
defined.

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. ^   Research must provide input toward accomplishing a better under-
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standing in the three stated areas.
Social and Government Structuring
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     Most engineers in the utilities business will argue that the most
frustrating part of their job is their inability to put to use all that
they know will work to optimize public benefits—a sociological element.
Some of the most potent tools of community planning are water, sewers,
hospitals, and schools.  As we all know ever so vividly, these tools
are not effectively utilized.  Two very serious road blocks cause dif-
ficulties in optimizing the benefits of long range planning and utility
installation; namely, financing and governmental structuring.  We in
Alaska have the unique opportunity to minimize both of the above problems
and get on with the business of developing planned communities.
     The financial and governmental restrictions may be minimized if
the State of Alaska will develop a semi-private corporation having the
power to draw upon state-wide resources as backing for revenue bonds,
and with capabilities to develop systems having "trunk" capacity for
future development.  By making it possible for communities to provide
public utilities at lower interest rates and allow systems to be
constructed before they can be justified on a density basis, better
planning will result.  Existing  systems may be incorporated into new
systems with appropriate consideration to the citizens of any given
community.
     The areas of important research needs are:  (1) Determination of
sociological impacts on waste water treatment utilities, including

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methods of financing and ownership should be evaluated.   Large capital
investments are required in an industry having dramatic  changes and
improvements occurring.  (2)  Investigation of alternatives to local
ownership and operation should be pursued including the  possibility of
a semi-private corporation or corporations backed by the State (possibly
similar to the Tennessee Valley Electric Authority) that could provide
area-wide services for water supply, sewage collection and treatment,
and solid waste collection and disposal.
Waste Treatment
     Effective waste treatment can be provided at the present time in
Alaska.  The requirements for research are to develop more economical
methods of treatment, minimize environmental (weather) protection, and
determine the influences of extreme temperature changes, low temperatures,
etc., on process efficiencies and'equipment reliability.  New approaches
and fresh thinking are necessary for solution of waste treatment and dis-
posal problems at remote locations.  Industry, on one hand, can afford to
obtain and maintain sophisticated equipment while, on the other hand, small,
remote villages do not have the investment capital or the operating
funds for sophisticated equipment.  Examples of other research needs
are:
     Investigation of low temperature disinfection; effectiveness
     and new methods.
     Development of simplified equipment that may be operated with
     minimal environmental  (weather) protection.

     Establishment of temperature corrections for the design of biological
     systems, including prediction models to predict minimum water tern-

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     peratures within  systems,  based  on  the  type  of  sewer  system,
     service area size and  location within the  State.          .

     Development of improved  or new methods  for positive control of
     mixed liquor solids  concentrations  in activated sludge.

     Determination of  more  economical  but feasible methods  for organic
     sludge stabilization and disposal,  particularly methods  that  utilize
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     Alaska weather extremes.

     Development of design  criteria for  low-cost  construction approaches,
     including materials  and  construction techniques.

     Development of low-cost  reliable physical-chemical tertiary treat-
     ment systems for  remote  site application.

     Determination of  sewage  lagoon performance (seasonal  and long term)
     under Alaska conditions.

     Development of reliable  systems  for collection  and treatment  of
     sewage in remote  Alaska  villages.

     Establishment of  feasibility for waste  recovery through  by-product
     development and marketing  for the fisheries  industry.

     Development of tertiary  treatment systems  for  ballast water treat-
     ment.
Water Quality
     Waste treatment is a means to an "end".  That  "end" must be effective
water quality management or the costs of waste  treatment are  an unneces-
sary drain on community resources. The  basic characteristics of

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    system determine the system-^s function and usefulness.   Man,  until
recent geologic times, has not been part of-the wilderness  ecology.
Therefore, wherever man goes and takes his life support systems,  changes
are inevitable.  The key to man's success in  fitting himself into the
ecological balance of any given area lies with his ability  to become a
symbiotic part of the ecosystem he is entering.  Establishing a favorable
symbiotic relationship between modern man and water resources is  what'
water quality management is all about.  After all  if we were not  crea-
tures of habit, we would not be utilizing water for transporting  wastes
just as the ancients thousands of years before us  did,  but  instead would,
by now, have figured out new ways.  Until we  accept the fact that our
wastes must be utilized as basic resources to be reused in  a useful
manner, they must be viewed as potential resource  pollution.  The tech-
nology, although not economically usable under present  value systems,  is
available to provide complete treatment of waste water, thus returning
the waters to their original or better condition.   The  waste concentrate
or brine then becomes a potential pollutant for air or  land resources.
Management, then, must be a decision making process that involves
decisions relative to the most favorable trade-offs of  water-land-air
changes or deviations from wilderness conditions.   Sludge removed from
water in the purification process must be disposed of through burial
(land resource pollution) or incineration (air pollution) unless it is
utilized as a resource; thus the impact of decisions to protect one re-
source must be weighed against potential problems  created in other areas.
     Alaska has an Alaska State Plan, including Water Quality Standards,
adopted in its original form back in the 1950's but undergoing a major

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 revision in 1967- to comply with Federal  requirements.   The  water quality
 standards were formulated utilizing the best information available.   The
 people most closely involved with the Water Quality Standards  are the
 first to admit that improvements will become necessary as baseline infor-
 mation is collected in various parts of Alaska to provide a more accurate
• picture of true conditions including those unique to a given area.
      Some people hate to allow the collection and interpretation of basic
 data for definition of baseline conditions to be called research, but
 researchers are ill-advised to go forward without it.   The  first order of
 business, then, must be the collection and interpretation of basic data
 to establish what baseline conditions really are in various parts of
 Alaska.
      The basic water quality parameters such as dissolved oxygen, bacterial
 contamination indicators, pH, turbidity, biochemical oxygen demand (BOD),
 etc., need to be tested for validity under various Alaska conditions and
 appropriate tolerable limits established accordingly.   For instance, the
 standard BOD test is conducted at 20°C with 5-day incubation.   It would
 be a rare occasion when a river or lake in Alaska ever reached 20°C water
 temperature.  Therefore, of what value is the standard BOD test except as  a
 yardstick?  Faster and cheaper "yardsticks" are available.   Possibly Alaska
 needs to consider the use of COD combined with biodegradability studies.
 The biodegradability studies should be conducted utilizing the subject
 Waste or treatment plant effluent as a substrate at temperatures equivalent
 to stream temperatures, including provision to follow the annual cycle of
 stream temperatures.
      Minimum acceptable levels of dissolved oxygen have been established,
 but in many cases levels far below the minimum have been recorded (less
 than 1.0 to 3.5 mg/1) in streams where man's influence is not a factor.

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Lowering the State's minimum standards to winter low DO levels  is  obviously
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not an appropriate solution and utilizing a percentage  of naturally  occur-
ring DO levels is not an answer either.   Present evidence, although  extremely
limited, seems to indicate that winter DO conditions are one of the  major
limiting factors in stream and lake productivity under  Alaska's wilderness
conditions.
     Basic research to establish the impact of low dissolved oxygen  on
Arctic and Subarctic freshwater benthic organisms and fish is necessary.
     Unless an effluent is completely sterilized, pathogenic micro-
organisms are going to be added to the receiving waters.  Since Alaska's
rivers and lakes have near freezing water temperatures  for a major portion
of the annual cycle, allowable numbers of indicator microorganisms for
various intended water uses, appropriate for temperate  climate situations,
should be seriously questioned if'not significantly modified when  applied
to Alaska water quality management.  The old Public Health correlation
factors for pathogens to indicators also are open to serious question
when applied to cold waters.
    . As we all know from personal observation, many of  Alaska's major
rivers are laden with glacial silt for significant periods of time during
the summer.  Obviously the silt does not disrupt the annual spawning
activities of the various fisheries.  However, man's activities that lead
to the addition of turbidity through gravel removal may not follow the
same cyclic pattern as nature and may also add turbidity to streams  that
would otherwise be clear.  The impacts of increasing concentrations
of turbidity, extending periods of turbidity, changing  annua cyclic
patterns on fish migration and spawning, and bottom siltation and
clarification definitely need to be determined.

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   .- Whenever any material -is handled, some is bound to be  spilled,  even
under the best of control and best intentions.  Intuitively,  we  become
scared when oil, in any quantity, gets on water and particularly so  if
the spill is a large one; rightly so.   Although oil seeps have been  oc-
curring for thousands of years, they do not normally occur  in the same
locations where man may lose control of oil he is transporting.   Once
the crude oil has reached Alaska's water systems, its fate  needs to  be
understood.. Biodegradation will take place; the question is  how fast.
Interaction of silt of silt-laden rivers and estuaries with oil  will
take place; the questions then become one of where does the oily silt
deposit, what effects does it have on the benthic community and  what
rates of bottom degradation may be expected.  Arbitrary controls of
spills other than physical cleanup should not be attempted  without more
knowledge of the fate and effect of oil on the aquatic environments  in-
volved.  Any chemicals added to control (sweep the oil under  the rug)
may well have more detrimental effect on Alaska's water resources than
allowing nature to handle that portion of the spill that cannot  be
physically cleaned up.  It should be obvious that a state rich in oil
resources should be obtaining detailed knowledge of the interaction  of
oil and its land and water resources so that cleanup and control of
spills may be systematic and effective—not panic and tragedy.
     Remote sensing equipment that is effective in pipeline leak de-
tection is necessary as there are undoubtedly going to be thousands  of
miles of pipeline in Alaska in the future.

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     One of Alaska's most important industries for some time to come
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is going to be forest utilization.  Logging .practices can have tremendous

influence on the water resources, particularly small streams .in the log-


ging areas and estuaries utilized for log storage in log rafts.  The

influences of bark on estuary benthic communities where logs are

or will be stored needs to be determined so that positive approaches to


minimize the damage may be implemented.

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