Wastewater odor problem still lingering
The wastewater ponds on Perham's south side are making a big stink again - and it could be another month or two before the problem subsides. Residents started noticing the foul smell in the air last week, and began calling city officials to compl...
The wastewater ponds on Perham's south side are making a big stink again - and it could be another month or two before the problem subsides.
Residents started noticing the foul smell in the air last week, and began calling city officials to complain and get answers.
In an email, city manager Kelcey Klemm explained that the problem is two-fold: the treatment ponds are overloaded, and the equipment used to treat the wastewater is old and in need of replacement.
Plans to expand and update the 20-year-old wastewater treatment plant are underway, but not happening as quickly as city officials once hoped for.
It was originally thought that the $4.8 million expansion project might be complete in time for this season. But now, Public Works Director Merle Meece said, the city is hoping to do construction this summer and have it online by next spring.
Perham is, "still waiting for the federal government to get through the paperwork," Meece explained.
The titling, design, bidding and permitting process for a project of this size "can be lengthy," wrote Klemm, "but it is critical in the overall funding of the project."
For anyone who lives, works or spends time near Highway 10, the delay means another season of nose plugging and keeping the windows shut.
"Every spring it can't keep up," said Meece of the plant. "It has to get going again after the winter. It's having a hard time right now. The strength in the wastewater is a lot higher than what the pond was designed for (due to the city's growth)."
So far, said Meece, "the smell is not as bad as last year, and we're hoping it won't get that bad."
In hopes of lessening the odor, the public works department has started treating one of the plant's primary ponds with chemicals. They began the process last week, and are now treating it daily.
"But it's not something that's going to happen overnight," cautioned Meece. "And there's a chance that it won't work. It's all trial and error right now."
If the chemicals don't do the trick, there's one more option the city could choose to try - spraying the air above the ponds, almost like using a giant air freshener. But such treatments, Meece said, are expensive, temporary and not guaranteed to work.
The other causes of the problem - malfunctioning aerators and an undersized system - will be nonissues once the new expansion is complete.
Until then, though, there's little telling just how bad it will get, or exactly how long it will last.
"It usually goes away after about a month or two," Meece said. "And hopefully we can get it gone sooner than that this year."