City to Spend $5.2M to Reduce Sewage Stink

The Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority has decided to spend $5.2M to reduce the sewage stink from the Woolen Mills processing plant, Seth Rosen and Jeremy Borden write in the Progress. Three million of that will go to building an enclosed receiving statement, with scrubbers to filter outgoing air, and $2.2M will go for equipment to regularly clean the whole joint. Folks living in the area have complained for years, and rightly so — nobody wants to live near that.

12 thoughts on “City to Spend $5.2M to Reduce Sewage Stink”

  1. It’s safe to say that everyone within sniffing distance of the plant– and that covers Belmont-Carlton, Woolen Mills, sometimes the Martha Jefferson n’hood, and pretty much everyone driving by on 64– is happy that something will finally be done about this.

    Hazen & Sawyer’s study showed that there is no (zero, nada, none) odor control currently in place. You can’t put a sewage treatment plant near humans and then have no odor mitigation. Yet that’s been the case for decades. I’ve personally been working on this issue for 15 years straight now, but some have been at it for over 20. So this is long overdue.

    A gentle correction though, if I may. The plant isn’t in the Woolen Mills neighborhood, it’s located in Belmont-Carlton, the next neighborhood over. Their benefit will be even greater than ours, and that’s saying something!

  2. It’s the RWSA, and it’s part of their overall improvements and upgrades plan. As far as any additional funding spread out over the city and county is concerned, I have no idea.

    There are holding ponds and tanks etc at the plant that have never been cleaned in all these years. The septage that arrives in trucks is poured out into the open right near the gates. That’s some of what you smell if you’re in the Carlton neighborhood, and boy is it ever pungent. Not Tom Frederick’s fault– he’s inherited many of these problems.

    I’d like to clarify something that wasn’t clear in the article. The compost created an enormous problem in the area. It turned out that it was the only open-air composting facility of its size on the East coast operating that close to people and homes. From a health and quality of living perspective, that’s a huge no-no. Over the years, there have been several odor problems coming from the plant: 1) compost, 2) the actual sewage processing from septage etc, and 3) the offsite facilities like the pumping station at the entrance to Riverview Park.

    People who’ve lived here long enough can immediately tell which odor is which. But, as each problem is addressed in turn, the remaining issues come to the forefront. I’m afraid that a misconception exists among some people that the folks in the neighborhoods surrounding the plant are never satisfied, i.e. “We got rid of the composting at a cost of $xx, and now they’re complaining again?!”

    Unfortunately, many problems were allowed to worsen for decades, despite resident’s pleas for relief. Fortunately, the current management has made the decision to deal with the issue.

  3. The second step of odor control improvements will be done as part of the planned upgrade of Moores Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, so the cost will be added to that project. The $41 million upgrade is to comply with the Chesapeake Bay act, which requires plants to reduce the amount of nitrogen and phosphorous that are released into the watershed. The RWSA is anticipating state funding to cover at least $16 million of that cost.

    As for the first phase, the motion that adopted the plan contains this section: “Revenue for the costs of the septage receiving station is presently anticipated by a grant from Albemarle County, and may be in the form of reimbursement of debt service or amortized costs. This anticipation is subject to confirmation with the adoption of the County budget in April. In the event such funds are not approved, RWSA will recommend increases in septage disposal fees at the May Board meeting to offset revenue shortfall.”

    Read more and listen to the podcast at Charlottesville Tomorrow.

  4. The Daily Progress article touches on, but doesn’t fully address, an issue that remains for the RWSA and its eastside neighbors: Who should take responsibility for seeing that sewage and septage odors are eliminated? I say it’s the RWSA, not me and my neighbors. For years now, the procedure has been that when we smell a smell we call the RWSA and they send someone out to see if he can smell the smell, too. How ridiculous is that? (Why would you call if there isn’t a smell to smell?)

    I’m really troubled by Tom Fredericks quote in the paper: “We will only go as far as we need to go to address the concerns in the community.”

    Why the use of ONLY? Is that to send a message to the wider community that he isn’t going to go off the deep end buying air fresheners to mollify the odor sensitive people on the east side? Come on! If you run a sewage treatment plant where people live, and you hope to double the capacity of that plant by processing sewage from the new homes and offices built by the chair of RWSA (among others), then you should to step forward and tell the community that you are committed to eliminating the odors from the plant. If it stinks at the plant and wind blows, it stinks in some or all of the neighborhoods named above.

    Why isn’t anyone talking about a surcharge to news users to pay for plant upgrades, including odor controls?

  5. Local natives know this area as hog wallow and the smell has been around forever. I reallly doubt if any amount of money will eliminate the smell. After all if you don’t stir the stuff it won’t smell.

  6. Eliminating the compost operation and fixing the bio filter have both cost money and the result was a dramatic, though not total, reduction of the odor. The compost pile had a unique aroma and could be so pungent I could taste it. That’s gone now and I am really grateful! I am also confident that more can be done that will eliminate more of the stench.

  7. The cheapest and easiest way to eliminate the odor is to get people to change their eating habits. The food you eat determines the odor given off when it comes out of the other end. This has been proven with hogs in large hog farming operations and if you could convenience the populations that supply waste to the RWSA treatment facility to change their diets then perhaps that would help eliminate some of the odor. But I go back to my first thought…the more you stir it the more it stinks…..

  8. Amen, Kevin. Jogger, reread Victoria Dunham’s first post: the study commissioned by RWSA reported that there are NO odor controls at the plant. Not even one little Christmas tree hanging from their chain link fence. How about we start there before hiring the food police to control our diets? (Sawdust for breakfast!) It ain’t the stirring per se, it’s the OPEN AIR stirring. No reason that can’t stop.

  9. Jogger,
    Please use the proper term: Hawg Waller.

    Why on earth would you think that it would be easy to get people to change their diets? Easy or not, I doubt it would really have much effect on the stench. I’ve tried all kinds of diets and my “solid waste deposits” always stunk.

  10. The fact that part of the Carlton neighborhood has been called Hogwaller, in no way indicates that the folks that live there should suffer the stench from the sewage treatment plant.

    I second Karl’s comment re surcharges. Everyone that flushes a toilet connected to the municipal sewer system is contributing to the problem, and that includes UVA. More development = more odors.

    If there are plants that don’t smell (and there are!), then why shouldn’t ours be one of them. The RWSA’s close proximity to habitation tells me that more needs to be done… and sooner.

  11. jogger, I appreciate your effort at humor. It seems the work will be done and the payment for it will be determined later. I’m not sure the computer system at Ribvanna can be programmed to include another surcharge and it will probably cost millions to enable that feature for a specific group of people. These costs of reprogramming will not be included in the surcharge. Thus, it will be cheaper for everyone to just spread the cost over everyone’s bill. The money goes into one big pot anyway as will the cost for about another $250M in new costs. One thing is for certain, water and sewer customers WILL be paying much higher bills whether the stench is worked on or not.

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