EL CENTRO — Subdivision residents went before the council at its meeting Tuesday night, August 6, to air their concern about a sewer odor that has lingered in their neighborhood since the relocation of a sewer lift, or pump station, in November 2017 to the corners of La Brucherie and Wake Avenues south of Interstate 8.
The sewer odor was one of many items on the agenda at the city council meeting which adjourned at 11:30 p.m.
Homeowners affected by the sewer odor are those living Farmer Estates and Renaissance subdivisions. These same residents are able to distinguish sewer odors from those resulting from farm activities.
“At the beginning, it was smelling was very bad,” said Hope Navarro who claimed to have spoken previously with a city engineer. According to Navarro, “I had to reroute my area to walk because of the smell. I had to cover my mouth and nose as I was walking there … I don’t get that smell anymore in my area,” said Navarro, who was concerned about other residents as well as Southwest High School students running track meets and training in the area.
Marnitta Pavao previously spoke with Abraham Campos, public works director and city engineer, regarding the issue. She claimed to have noticed service trucks multiple times a day at the vicinity of the pump station. Pavao informed council member Cheryl Viegas-Walker at the council meeting that a petition with 125 signatures was furnished to council members.
“Oftentimes, we can’t even go to our backyard and enjoy it,” said Jennifer Mellon, a resident a few houses away from the lift pump station on Wake Avenue. According to Mellon, the smell was there when she wakes up, when she leaves the house, and when she walks her dog in the evening.
Karen Larsen, another resident, was concerned about the value of her property. “I’ve lived there for 15 years.”
Campos’ presentation of an updated report on the lift station later in the evening was moved forward by council members in response to the concerns of El Centro residents. He explained the causes, what has been done in the past, current actions, and ongoing mitigation measures to reduce and eliminate the odor.
“The smell is caused by hydrogen sulfide (also known by its chemical formula H2S),” said Campos. Hydrogen sulfide is created when bacteria stops consuming oxygen. As long as the sewer has oxygen, H2S is not generated.
“Once the sewer becomes septic, meaning the oxygen in the sewer gets consumed so that the water lacks any oxygen for the bacteria to survive, the bacteria adapts and starts eating other materials that are not oxygen within the system. The byproduct of that is H2S, hydrogen sulfide, and that’s what produces the rotten egg smell,” Campos said.
According to Campos, there is no pattern when the odorous whiff is weaker or stronger during the day because of numerous factors. However, when there is a continuous sewage flow, the stench will likely not be noticeable, and that varies from day to day.
The sewage odor has been significantly reduced since November 2017 when the sewer lift station was relocated to its present site.
“All I can say is [the odor] is not even close to where it was before. I understand that there are still concerns out there and that’s what we are we are working on,” said Campos.