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Stench be gone
The city will be adding chemical deodorizers to incoming sewage at the wastewater treatment plant in an effort to neutralize foul smells. (Times file photo)
MONROE - The city will be trying a mix of deodorizing chemicals to help neutralize some of the smell coming from the wastewater treatment plant.

The city has taken a "handful" of phone calls over the past few weeks about the foul odors coming from the treatment plant on the city's far west side, Colin Simpson, director of public works, told members of the city's Board of Public Works on Monday.

Larry Kranig, who owns Monroe Sign Design on 4th Avenue West near the treatment plant, told the board the smell can be so strong he must keep doors closed.

"In 25 years, we didn't have it where it was so sickening," he said.

It's not just the far west side affected by the smell. BPW chairman Charles Koch noticed it on the Square on Saturday afternoon. "It smelled like a farmer cleaning his slurry," he said, referring to agricultural animal waste.

Kranig said he thinks the problem is related to the faulty engineering for the treatment plant's upgrade. The treatment plant is in the final stage of a five-year, $28 million renovation.

"We didn't have this problem for 25 years, we put $28 million into the new system and now we have it," he said.

Simpson said most of the smell is coming from the tank on the far east side of the facility. This tank acts as a buffer, holding incoming sewage for about a day, allowing it to dilute down before entering an aeration tank where it gets broken down.

This is a different process than what the plant used before, he said. Previously, the tank was used for ammonia storage, and therefore odors from the plant had more of an ammonia smell.

The problem is sporadic, depending on what type of industrial waste is coming in, as well as weather and wind conditions. The smell seems to be worst between 6 and 8 a.m., Simpson said.

To help eliminate at least some of the problem, the city will look at adding chemicals designed to deodorize sewage - sort of "industrial-strength Febreze," Simpson said - to the buffer tanks.

Deodorizing chemicals target specific components to neutralize. In Monroe, however, the sewage inflow varies from day to day, even hour to hour. "We might get a heavy load from the brewery, then the next day from Roth Kase," he said. Because of the constantly changing make-up of the sewage coming in, the city

will need an "arsenal" of chemicals at its disposal and it will be "extraordinarily difficult" to come up with the right mix of chemicals at the right time.

It also won't be cheap: Simpson estimated deodorizing chemicals will cost the city an additional $20,000 to $50,000 per year.

The chemicals aren't a cure-all. Simpson said the deodorizing chemicals don't eliminate odors completely; rather, the components change the smell to a different one. In some cases, the new odor may not be more pleasing.

Another alternative is spending "many hundreds of thousands of dollars on an air-handling system" that may or may not provide a better result, Simpson said.

For now, samples of chemicals are coming and the city will try to determine the best mix. But don't hold your breath.

Simpson said it will take the rest of the year to work on the problem, and even then, "it will never be completely solvable."