Treatment plant causes stink

City receives first complaint in years on wastewater facility

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Kate Nowak said things started to smell last August when she moved into her home in Heritage Park.

She said a smell seeped into her home at night when windows were left open. It was around when a friend came over for coffee. Another afternoon the smell -- drifting onto a neighbor's balcony -- drove her inside.

At first she thought the odor came from fertilizer on nearby fields, but then a neighbor pointed to the city's wastewater treatment plant a half mile away. Through August and September, Nowak said the odor was strong two to three times a week.

"It was horrid," she said.

With the shift in weather, Nowak said the smell is less frequent.

The Steamboat Springs City Council will discuss the problem at tonight's council meeting.

City Director of Public Works Jim Weber said Nowak's complaint is the first formal one the city has received about the wastewater treatment plant's odor in a number of years.

Weber's proposed solutions to cut down on the odor could cost from $10,000 to $5 million.

The odor from the plant is susceptible to prevailing wind conditions, and Heritage Park, Steamboat II, the Steamboat Golf Course and Riverbend Roadhouse are affected, Weber said.

In a memo to Weber, plant Superintendent Gilbert Anderson said complaints are most frequent during the late summer monsoon season. He said the air is heavy and wet, and wind currents out of the south carry the odor close to residential areas.

In that memo, Anderson said a process called supernating most likely led to the complaints. The process, which costs less than hauling away waste, requires the wastes to be stored and later sprayed on fields.

One solution would be to stop spraying fields and haul the waste away, which would cost about $20,000. The most expensive option is to install odor control equipment, which would cost about $1 million per building plus a significant increase in operation and maintenance costs.

Weber said even the $5 million solution would have no guarantees.

"The product we're dealing with doesn't have a pleasant odor to begin with," Weber said.

Nowak said the smell only came twice in October and she agreed to work with the city to keep a log on days the smell is strong.

She said residents of Heritage Park agreed that the odor is strong during a homeowner's association meeting.

The reason it has not been brought before council sooner, Nowak said, is because some neighbors did not know who to call and had other battles to fight, such as getting mailboxes to the development.

Nowak said she would be more accepting of the smell if it came only once or twice a year when the plant sprayed the fields, but a few times a week is intolerable.

"All I want is for it to go away," Nowak said.

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