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DU tries to
stop a stench

Wastewater plant believed to be source of odor problem

By Bayne Hughes · 340-2432

Decatur residents held their noses against a foul-smelling stench as they went to work and school Wednesday.

Decatur Utilities interim General Manager Stanley Keenum said the water and wastewater treatment plant on Alabama 20 West is probably the origin of the stench. He said the utility formed a team and hired a consultant to identify the source and find a solution to the problem.

“In recent weeks, the smell has been stronger than normal,” Keenum said. “We’re trying to get to the root of what caused the problem, and we’re doing it in a scientific manner.”

Keenum said they’ve already narrowed the problem in the biological process and the bacteria used to break down the raw sewage. In layman’s terms, he said, there are sulfates going into the plant that are robbing the bacteria of oxygen.

“The bacteria just aren’t as healthy as they should be,” he said.

He said there are new sewage sources from new industries in the area, and one of those sources could be causing the problem. He said the team is trying to identify this source.

Keenum said crews are reseeding the bacteria and adding chemicals to the process that they hope will correct some of the problems. Residents could notice a difference within 10 to 14 days.

DU is changing some of the process inside the primary clarifier in an effort to reduce the retention time of the sulfates that cause the smell.

So far, the utility has spent almost $10,000 on testing and could spend that much more on additional testing. The consultant’s cost so far is $5,000. Keenum said he wants him to do more work for the utility.

“We’re just getting started,” Keenum said.

“The corrections we’ve made should improve the situation but, if the things we’ve done don’t work, we’ll try something else.”

The plant had several boiler tubes malfunction about a month ago. Gary Borden, DU water and wastewater manager, said crews are still working to correct this problem too.

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