Hiring scientific sniffers is odor option for waste plant

By: 
Virginia Ransbottom, Staff Writer

Bringing a company in to scientifically sniff around Allegan’s Waste Water Treatment Facility was an option presented to Allegan City Council members at their meeting Monday, July 8.

In an effort to determine how to reduce odors drifting into neighborhoods from the facility, a proposal to hire Jones and Henry, at a cost not to exceed $20,000, was presented by water utilities director Doug Sweeris.

He said Jones and Henry are currently working on the Russell/Robinson neighborhood project and have conducted similar odor studies in Kalamazoo and Battle Creek that pinpoint the potential causes, the extent of issues, and provides several potential remedies.

Council member Nancy Ingalsbee said she did not want to spend money on the study.

“We already know the air stinks,” she said. “I think we should stop receiving industrial waste for 30 days to six weeks to see if that is the problem interfering with residents quality of life.”

The city upgraded the plant’s resource recovery facility capacity from 15,000 pounds per day to 24,000 pounds per day in 2013 and is now at 60 to 70 percent capacity. Last fiscal year, septage receiving made a profit of $356,437 and industrial receiving made a profit of $541,126.

Sweeris said if the council wants the facility to stop accepting outside waste, he needed to give haulers notice because there are not many places to dump it; once they’ve found a place, they might not come back, even if it is determined the industrial food waste is not the source.

He said the facility not only takes industrial food waste but septage from Allegan Township residents, many from around Lake Allegan.

“We take everybody’s crap,” said Mayor Rachel McKenzie.

Sweeris mentioned that biosolids will be hauled out in the next two weeks but will start to be collected again for the fall farm spread.

In the past, the city has dealt with the odor problem by stopping operation of the blue sludge storage tank aeration system and implemented a chemical oxidizer/cover scent system. The misting spray costs nearly $40,000 annually.

Local business owner Joe Leverence said the biggest problem seems to be the smell of “big blue.” He suggested a cheap plastic cover that can be replaced often rather than millions on a permanent cover.

Sweeris said that’s why he likes the idea of a study because it will answer where the smell is coming from and offer several options to get rid of it.

Local resident Teresa Galloway said that during the July 3 Jubilee, she overheard a festival-goer say, “Boy, it stinks out here,” and then a person reply, “That’s just the City of Allegan.” She said it was a bad reputation to have and something needed to be done about it.

For those who would like to see how the treatment facility operates with the environment, the city will be hosting tours of the Waste Water Treatment Facility at 350 North St. on Wednesday, July 17, at 4 p.m., 4:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. Wear close-toed shoes. A public meeting will follow at Griswold Auditorium at 6 p.m. to further discuss what to do about the odor.

Virginia Ransbottom can be contacted at vransbottom@allegannews.com or at (269) 673-5534.

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