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What’s that smell? With UAJA project behind schedule, College Township odor to continue

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Bellingham, Washington, is proposing to build a $196 million wastewater treatment plant that would in part produce clean, nutrient-rich biosolids, which then could be turned into fertilizer or topsoil. Here's how it would work.

With University Area Joint Authority’s construction project to address odors coming from the wastewater treatment facility running behind, College Township residents and passersby will have to tolerate the unpleasant smell for a few more months.

In January 2018, UAJA announced a $10 million project meant to address an odor created by a biofilter that worked to reduce smells created by the compost facility. While the cost of the project has remained the same, its anticipated July 2019 completion date has been extended to mid-October.

“Essentially, the whole project got moved time-wise,” UAJA Executive Director Cory Miller said. “The total time we will be without odor control is pretty much the same.”

Initially, UAJA planned to build an entirely new facility while also using its old one; however, that plan was almost $3.5 million over the estimated budget, so UAJA decided to build on top of the facility, leaving the treatment facility without odor control and the project running behind schedule. The demolition of the facility, located on Spring Valley Road, occurred Dec. 4.

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Construction is ongoing at the compost facility at UAJA started in December 2018. Abby Drey adrey@centredaily.com


As construction continues, Miller said he expects odors to be prevalent in the air; however, how potent they are depends on the “atmospheric conditions of any particular day.”

UAJA tried to schedule work during the winter, when less people are outside. But now that summer is in full swing, Miller said UAJA has seen an increase in resident complaints about odors coming from the facility.

“There are days when nobody smells anything, and there are days when a lot of people smell a lot,” Miller said.

When residents report odors, Miller said UAJA keeps track of the complaints, where they are coming from and immediately checks the treatment facility to make sure it is operating properly and safely.

Miller said the construction company, Global Heavy, has been delayed in its efforts to finish. The general construction company will face financial penalties due to the missed deadline.

Once the project is complete, the new facility will consist of a completely contained concrete box. The dewatering and compost facilities will be piped to the new facility. Once the air has been deodorized, it will be sent through a stack and released into the atmosphere, Miller said.

“Once the project is complete, the design is supposed to eliminate odors before it even goes up the stack,” Miller said. “So except for really extreme conditions, there should be no traceable odors leaving our property.”

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