Despite the significant rehabilitation of the Saline wastewater treatment plant that is ongoing, residents living nearby are fed up with the odors emanating from the facility.
“The last couple of days, the last couple of nights, its been nice weather, the air conditioner has been off and the windows are open, and it just smells like sewage, and something needs to be done with that,” resident Kevin Belesek told the city council during the public comment portion of its meeting Aug. 22. “It’s just constant, some nights are better than others.”
Jim Roth, a former city council member whose house and property is adjacent to the wastewater treatment plant, said the odor has been worse the last few years. “My tenure on council I kind of laid low and didn’t make this a personal issue as far as the odor,” he said. “At this present time with the present engineering firm we have and equipment we have and all the money the city has spent trying to rectify this problem, I’m not sure if we are getting our money’s worth.”
The City of Saline is in the midst of an extensive overhaul of its wastewater treatment plant, which Mayor Brian Marl called profound in cost. “As part of the scope I think its important to address the cost because its quite profound and indicative of how serious we take these issues, not only issues regarding odor, but our desire to improve the safety and efficiency of the plant,” Marl said.
The project is a $3.6 million rehabilitation aimed at increasing the facility’s operating efficiency and assisting in reducing odors originating from the plant. The city has also undertaken additional work on its odor scrubbers to specifically reduce the smells.
“To me what you’re doing is putting Band-Aids on the issues that are going on down there. Nothing has been taken care of, the smell is still there,” said Belesek, who has lived in the area since 1991. “Since I moved into the neighborhood, there has been continually an odor problem with the water treatment plant. There seems to be, at least to the residents that are there, that there’s no resolution to that no matter what you folks do, no matter who you hire, what you want to do, it’s not taking care of the problem.”
Although work was added to the scrubbers, Wastewater Treatment Plant Superintendent Bob Scull made it clear the rehabilitation of the plant was not primarily to reduce odors. “The recent additions to the plant was basically to renovate the existing system,” Scull said. “We also addressed some of the odor issues. It was not predominately an odor abatement project. We did have some money penciled aside for that, which consisted of repairing the scrubber as well as patching the duct work. ”
Part of the current problems may stem from the fact the work at the plant is ongoing. “Currently the plant is not running normally. We just had a lot of work done, biological processes take time to reestablish growth and proper system performance,” Scull said.
Although the work is expected to conclude about Oct. 1, it doesn’t mean the odor problem will be solved immediately after that point, though. “It’s a wastewater plant, there will be odors unless we address the other sources. We get up and running, hopefully the odors will be lessened, but I’m not going to stand up here and say there won’t be any,” Scull said.
Scull said more odor abatement work could be done. “The thing to keep in mind is the odor abatement project that we have going are all up and running, but the problem is they do not extend over all the systems in the plant. They never did,” Scull added. “I think part of the issue is going to be in the future we may need to look at expanding the current odor abatement work to additional parts of the plant that’s not currently being covered by it.”
The city is also taking the additional step to reduce smells by applying a chemical to the area, but whether this process works is still to be determined. “We’re misting around certain areas with an odor neutralizing chemical, which we just started doing and we’re experimenting on the application of it,” Scull said.
In the meantime, residents near the wastewater treatment plant, like Roth, don’t want to open their windows. “I think its definitely wrong that the city is putting out such odors and putting the residents there and other residents in such a predicament that you can’t breathe fresh air,” he said.