This summer has seen a ferocious spike in odor emanating from Portland Water District's East End Wastewater Treatment Facility located near Tukey's bridge along the Eastern Prom trail. The smelly air from the facility rises to the top of Munjoy Hill, then settles on the neighborhood, blanketing residents in the unmistakable funk of human waste. Many people have called the facility in recent weeks as well as complained across social media of not being able to open windows and of parents and children at the East End Community School gagging from the smell.
Locals have reason to be hopeful however, according to new details from the Portland Water District.
Jay Norris, President of the Munjoy Hill Neighborhood Organization toured the facility yesterday and took the following video footage comparing old vs. new technologies coexisting at the plant. In the video, Steve Sloan, the facility's chief operator, demonstrates the old system, aerating the black, murky waste water, compared to the more quiet, lighter colored, foamy tank. According to Sloan, that foam is merely a byproduct of the testing cycle and will not be produced once the new aerators are online. "The difference in the odor, standing directly next to each, was night and day with the newer tank having almost no odor compared to the older." Norris told the Observer.
A press release issued today by the Portland Water District provided Hill residents some hopeful news:
The $11.4 million project to update the East End Wastewater Treatment Plant’s aeration system has reached a milestone. The first of three aeration tanks to be replaced will go online tomorrow. The 36-year old aeration system, which had reached the end of its useful life, is being updated to increase operational performance, reduce odors, and maintain compliance with permit conditions. The project replaces mechanical surface aerators with a modern process that diffuses air more efficiently into the bottom of the tanks. Efficiency Maine has recognized the project’s energy efficiency with a $300,000 grant.
Work will soon begin on the second aeration tank and the project is expected to be complete by the Fall of 2017. For more information and periodic updates, please visit our project web page: https://www.pwd.org/eewwtf-aeration-project
Public Tour: The public is invited to come to an open house on Thursday, August 18 at 11 a.m. to learn more about the project.
Until today, the City pointed residents to a spare and somewhat cryptic bit of commentary on the Portland Water District website:
August 1, 2016: The first train of the new aeration system has been filled and testing and start up has begun.
July 2016: The diffusers have been installed in the first aeration tank and the new tank is expected to go online the first part of August. This is anticipated to alleviate some of the operational and odor issues that the plant has been responding to over the past two months. In addition to challenges related to operating the plant with one less aeration tank, warm temperatures, humidity and equipment failures have impacted processes. The plant has temporarily suspended septic tank waste deliveries and is using temporary aerators to improve performance.
The foul odor was front and center during last Thursday's outdoor concert at Fort Allen Park where it competed with the nicer smells of the food trucks and the sea. An Odor Monitoring Report the Water District received the following response:
Thank you for submitting an odor monitoring report. As you may know, our East End Wastewater Treatment Facility is undergoing a two-year construction project to replace the aeration system which is a key component to the treatment process. The diffusers were installed in the first aeration tank and the new tank was filled and started yesterday, August 1. We will continue testing the process throughout the week and expect the start up of this tank to alleviate some of the operational issues and worst odors occurring sporadically during construction this summer.
Odor Monitoring Reports can be filed online at http://www.pwd.org/odor-monitoring-report
More general comments can be addressed at https://www.pwd.org/contact using the dropdown item "East End Wastewater Treatment Facility". Tours of the East End Wastewater Treatment Facility are offered on the second Wednesday and fourth Thursday (that's the 10th and 25th this month) from April through November on a first come, first served basis. All tours last approximately two hours and feature both the facility and the laboratory. Tour bookings can be made online at http://www.pwd.org/tour-request