Smell from the waste water treatment plant returns

Southington logo cmykBy Lindsay Carey
Staff Writer
The town began receiving odor complaints from residents that live near the waste treatment plant during the weekend of Oct. 10. Nearby residents had the same issue last year.
“I want residents to know that we’re doing our best to resolve the issue,” said Town Councilor Chris Palmieri, at last week’s Town Council meeting.
Town Manager Garry Brumback said that the plant staff, engineering staff and the facilities plan consultant came in to work all weekend to try to find the problem and a fitting solution.
Brumback said that although there hadn’t been many problems throughout the summer, there have been issues for the last 18 months.
“It’s a misnomer that there haven’t been problems,” said Brumback. “There have been periodic problems all summer long, they just weren’t as concentrated or as bad as they have been.”
Last summer, the heat created foul problems at the waste water treatment plan. However, in comparison to last year there had not been any substantial problems at the plant, until now.
Brumback said that there are a number of factors that have contributed to the smell near the plant. One of the challenges are the chemicals that ware being added in, specifically the chemical to that reduces the amount of phosphorus discharged at the plant.
Town Councilor Dawn Miceli pointed out that the chemical being used to reduce phosphorus emissions was state mandated and suggested reporting the issues to the state.
“That’s very frustrating to me that we have to do that because we’ve been mandated by the state and now we’re having these problems,” said Miceli.
Brumback said that Southington is not the only town dealing with problems at their treatment plant. According to Brumback, towns such as Meriden, Cheshire, Middletown, and Wallingford are also having or have had issues.
He also said that a lot of the issues being run into involve the primary clarifier. Brumback defined it as “the point at which things enter and settled so that they can be processed through grounds of the system.”
The blanket of the primary clarifier is normally 2 or 3 feet thick and dense, according to Brumback. However, over the last week, it has supposedly expanded to 10 feet thick and lowered in density.
Brumback said that they will try to remedy to this problem by bringing in a second clarifier and adding polymers to thicken it and recreate the density.
He also mentioned that there have been problems with some airway filters causing the smell to enter into the atmosphere, instead of remaining below the surface. A mixture of both sludge and water going are spilling over the filters and contributing the smell.
Brumback also said that the trickling filters at the plant have been causing problems, because they do not operating at the same level of frequency during this time of year and have not been keeping the sludge damp and compressed.
“All three of those things combined can cause sporadic issues,” said Brumback. “We changed the process to try to put more chemicals in, but it’s a balance because the waste water treatment system is an ecosystem in its own right.”
Brumback said that they have to be cautious about which chemicals they add in, as the chemicals could potentially kill digestive organisms that help with the sludge problem.
“So it’s not something we can walk in and flip the switch and change,” said Brumback. “Those things that could be done immediately have been. Those things that require testing before implementation are being tested prior to implementation.”
According to Brumback, a number of changes are in store at the waste treatment plant including increased frequency of hauling, increased frequency in cleaning the grease filter, and testing the right polymer to add to build the density of the blanket back up.
“The worst thing we can do is add an untested step, so we’re running a parallel testing process making sure it’s the right polymer before we add it,” said Brumback.

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