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Odor Issues

Odors associated with wastewater collection and treatment are not harmful and are typically similar to a mild garbage smell. When there is a stronger odor issue most situations have a specific reason and location and, most often, a simple solution.

Inside Issues

  • If an odor is detected in a building it is usually due to a dry drain trap. Water in a trap acts as a barrier to sewer odors in the main lines. When any plumbing fixture is unused for a period of time drain traps can dry out allowing odors to vent into the building. Running water in the drains to replace the barrier will eliminate this cause. Don’t forget to pour water in floor drains, as well.
  • Another in house odor source can be the underside of the rubber barrier in a garbage disposal unit. Debris builds up and breeds bacteria that can cause odor. Use a stiff bristle brush with a disinfecting cleanser to remove that grimy build-up.
  • Air-recirculation and make up systems installed downwind of vents are a relatively new problem in private residences as well as commercial buildings.
  • Remodels can be a problem where existing plumbing pipes are not properly removed or capped off prior to new construction.
  • Inadequately sized vents can also cause odor problems in buildings.

Outside Issues

  • Two climatic odor causing environments can occur; Air inversions that trap odors close to the ground and high and low pressure systems that cause a chimney effect. Air inversions are generally the cause of odor issues at the treatment facility (see Treatment Facility on the main menu) due to its low lying position on the river. Cold air can move in overnight trapping air at lower levels. Then as air warms and rises it releases any trapped concentrated odors from the treatment process. While it may be unpleasant for a time, it is not dangerous and should quickly dissipate.
  • Localized odor problems will occur when septic tank pumping trucks are pumping grease interceptors and grease traps. The District requires that restaurants, bakeries, lodges with food service or or any other businesses related to cooking or selling food, have these devices to prevent damage to the treatment facility and collection system. Improperly maintained grease interceptors and traps are a prime source of odor issues within the city. This can be especially noticeable during peak usage. 
  •  Ponds can also be a temporary odor source. They accumulate nutrients from water fowl droppings and fertilizers. A winter ice cap can cause dissolved oxygen to drop to zero and the pond may become septic. During spring thaw when the pond turns over, the smell can be extremely strong.

The District maintains a continuous schedule to clean and inspect its lines and has invested well over $100,000 in odor control systems at its treatment facility.  When we all contribute to maintaining our systems we can greatly reduce unpleasant incidents.

If you are experiencing a persistent odor problem, please contact us. We are happy to help you.

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