ANCHORAGE, Alaska -

The Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility is seeking public comment on an updated master plan for its operations during the next two decades, as it shifts from building to maintaining its infrastructure.

According to an overview of the plan posted Wednesday as part of an “online open house” where readers can submit written comments, the utility’s priorities have shifted to match trends in Anchorage’s pattern of expansion, citing data from the 2010 Census and housing information from the city’s Planning Department.

“In the past, AWWU developed its service system to respond to a growing and developing Municipality,” utility officials wrote. “Now, the Municipality’s population is stable and AWWU is concentrating less on expansion and more on maintaining a maturing system.”

While the scope of AWWU’s coverage area includes 85 percent of Anchorage residents and communities as far north as Eklutna and as far south as Girdwood, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson’s water system is operated under an agreement with Doyon Utilities, Inc. AWWU also doesn’t serve some residents on the Anchorage Hillside, who have large land parcels and their own service.

“Certain parcels on the Hillside in Southeast Anchorage are anticipated to remain on individual septic systems through the 20-year planning period of this Master Plan and are not and will not be included in the Utilities’ certificated service area,” officials wrote.

One major issue AWWU sees in the coming years is preventing fats, oils and grease (FOG) from entering the sewer system, where they harden and become expensive to remove. With 14 of AWWU’s 25 sanitry sewer overflows last year caused by FOG, the utility already has a conceptual design for a dedicated facility to receive and treat the material.

“AWWU would accept FOG at the facility from designated FOG haulers and would ultimately dispose of the collected material at the
landfill or at the (Asplund Wastewater Treatment Facility on Point Woronzof) to be fed into the multiple hearth incinerator,” officials wrote.

The utility’s capital project manager, Stephen Nuss, says in a Wednesday statement on the plan that residents can reduce strain on the system by throwing away fats, oils and greases rather than pouring them down the drain.

“Our goal is to fix it first,” Nuss said. “Sanitary sewer overflows are a growing and expensive problem. By rehabilitating and repairing the system’s older pipes, and working with customers to reduce FOG in the system, we can decrease the instances of overflows.”

AWWU has posted the entire 152-page draft master plan (PDF) online. The utility will hold a Dec. 11 open house at its headquarters at 3000 Arctic Blvd. from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

In addition to information entered on comment forms attached to the online open house, Nuss is taking public comments through Feb. 19 by email at Stephen.Nuss@awwu.biz or by mail care of AWWU at PO Box 196626, Anchorage, AK 99519-6626.