The aroma doesn't often waft its way down to my home in East Bayside, so I usually don't encounter it unless I go running or biking along the East End Trail. I do both of those things quite often, though, so I am familiar with the typical smell level of the facility.
Some level of smell is to be expected from a wastewater treatment facility, of course, and the benefits provided to the community by wastewater treatment far outweigh the inconvenience of the smell. However, the increased odor as well as concerns from District One constituents about the potential for health risks associated with it prompted me to contact officials at the Portland Water District for information.
- As reported in Randy Billings' recent article in the Portland Press Herald, the increased smell is associated with the replacement of an aerator at the facility. The aeration project involves replacing all three aerators at the plant.
- According to Scott Firmin, who is the Director of Wastewater Services, "the aeration project itself is about a month ahead of schedule and I’m happy to report that the first newly constructed aeration basin will be placed into operation" on August 4th.
- Ron Miller, General Manager of the Portland Water District, confirmed that the first new aerator did, in fact, come online at 8:02am this morning (August 4th) and it is working well. Miller added that now that this first new aerator is up and running with the new system, the PWD does not expect to have similar odor issues during the replacement of the next two aerators.
- There were similar complaints about a spike in the odor at the plant back in 2012, at which time the Portland Water District hired nationally renowned wastewater odor expert Bob Bowker to study the plant. According to the 2012 Press Herald article, Bowker "said no health risks are associated with the odor. The levels of chemicals used in the treatment process are so low, they are difficult to measure."
- Adding to that, Miller said that there are approximately forty employees who work regularly at the plant, and the PWD would certainly never put any of them at risk. To that end, they have safety policies in place in case a worker should come in direct contact with untreated wastewater, which is the primary cause of health concerns in the field of wastewater treatment.
For information and updates on the aeration project, which is expected to be completed in 2017, visit the EEWWTF Aeration Project page.
To learn more about the way the plant operates and particularly about the aeration project, attend the open house on August 18th. There will be tours and information, and the event is free and open to the public.