City hears earful about nose-full at Allegan wastewater treatment facility

Virginia Ransbottom, Staff Writer

(Editor's note: This story printed in the July 26, 2018, Allegan County News) While residents continue to complain about the stench coming from Allegan’s wastewater treatment facility, plant superintendent Doug Sweeris said new high pressure misting equipment went online last Thursday that, when operated properly, should neutralize the smell.

Della Court resident Ché Withrow attended Monday’s council meeting on July 23, to complain of the feces smell and questioned why the city would not spend $2 million to cover the open septage tank installed in 2010. She also questioned why the city would choose to mask the smell and what the long-term effects of chemical spraying were.

“It doesn’t mask the smell—it neutralizes it and if you smell the fresh linen scent, too much product is being applied,” Sweeris said. “Fresh Zone combines to neutralize the odor by bonding with and neutralizing malodor molecules.

“It is water-based, non toxic, non carcinogenic and non hazardous.”

While the city looked into covering the tanks as an option, city manager Joel Dye said covering the tanks was not a fix.

Sweeris said covering the septage tanks was an all or nothing option that was an unknown if the odor could be contained.

“We could cover it but then we would still have vent pipes going into the atmosphere,” he said. “Highly corrosive gases would degradate the system, we’d need to be ready for repairs, and the equipment would need replacement before the 20-year loan payment is paid off.”

Going to a confined space, the daily maintenance would have to be hired out, he added.

Sweeris gave a lengthy report on the water and sewage processes, which will be posted to the city’s website.

While misters have been used since 2015 with peppermint oil that masked the smell, the new high pressure misting system was installed on the roof of the main building, fence lines and tanks to cover more area for neutralization.

“We’ve been dialing it in over the weekend,” Sweeris said.

He said in early to mid-August the sludge will be applied to farmer’s fields, which should help alleviate the cause of the smell.

The DEQ requires the sludge to be stored for six months before being applied to fields. Field applications occur two or three times a year.

“Maybe we could time the haulings so the tank is only half full in August,” Sweeris said.

Increased industrial waste, more septic tanks pumped out because of home sales and hot and moist weather were all contributing factors to the smell, he said.

While septage receiving is only at 50 percent capacity, it could be reduced; however, after attending a township meeting, Sweeris said people have also been complaining about manure on farm fields. He gave residents a heads up that a farm field east of Allegan will be spreading chicken manure on more than 100 acres.

Council member Mike Manning said of the complaints in the city, “So we’re trying to get a handle on it and see how it goes.”

After asking whether septic receiving was bringing in enough money to pay for the fix, Charles Tripp said the conversation should carry on at another meeting.

Virginia Ransbottom can be contacted at or at (269) 673-5534.


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