State College

College Township residents raise stink over ‘unbearable’ odor

The wet sewage tanks at the University Area Joint Authority on Friday, March 6, 2015. UAJA will be running tests after complaints of the smell.
The wet sewage tanks at the University Area Joint Authority on Friday, March 6, 2015. UAJA will be running tests after complaints of the smell. CDT photo

When Teri Spence moved to Independence Place in College Township near Wal-Mart last year, she had no idea her new home was near the University Area Joint Authority water-treatment facility.

“(My husband and I) visited the home when it was for sale several times,” she said. “One evening, there was a smell and we wondered what it was. Coincidentally, it was was also trash day, so we wrote it off.”

On the day they purchased the home and moved in, she said, it was one of the bad days for the facility, as the community was hit with an “unbearable” odor wafting from the UAJA.

During the past six to eight weeks, she said, the smell has gotten worse.

“When the odor’s there, you’re banished to the interior of your home,” she said. “We can’t open the windows, we can’t go out on our deck. There have been times when the smell has entered the home.”

Fellow Independence Place resident Mindy Dillon had similar experiences, saying odors from the UAJA have become stronger and more frequent to the point where they’re overwhelming. What started as an odor at night now occurs any time of day, any day of the week.

The authority kicked off an odor-control study in August, according to the UAJA website. In addition to collecting air samples, the authority invited residents to submit their own off-site odor observations.

According to Dillon, these forms ask to rate the type of smell and intensity such as the odor of rotten eggs with a rating of seven out of 10.

UAJA Executive Director Cory Miller said the study is proceeding according to plan. Two air samples have been taken, with the last slated for April, possibly May, depending on weather.

Samples are taken in two different ways, he said — in some cases, samples are collected in bags and sent off to be analyzed. A more subjective sampling is done by a panel of certified odor analysts who use specialized equipment to evaluate the type and intensity of odors at various locations.

Both sampling types are being used by the authority, he said.

No materials or procedures have changed that would increase the level of odors leaving the site, he said, except for the normal amount of wastewater coming from the community.

“There’s just more of it as the community continues to grow,” he said.

What may be causing a significant change in odor recently, he said, is maintenance on the compost building. That task involves cleaning out all the aeration equipment, he said, and is probably part of the problem.

The equipment cleaning should be completed by the end of the month, Miller said. Afterward, it will take about 20 days for the microorganisms that assist in the aeration process to grow back.

The only short-term solution to the odor issue would be to try to mask the odor, he said, which involves spraying a cover odor in the air “like a giant air freshener.”

“It might smell better, but that would involve spraying an awful lot of chemicals into the air,” he said. “I don’t particularly like that idea, because it’s adding more chemicals to an already chemical-saturated environment.”

Once the study is completed around the end of summer, Miller said, operational changes will be suggested to significantly reduce odor. Any changes will be implemented quickly, he said.

“We’re waiting to see what the report says rather than going with trial and error,” he said.

According to College Township engineer Kent Baker, the township has two appointed representatives who can pass concerns directly to the UAJA board of directors. Anyone wishing to voice concerns can contact the township.

He also suggested residents attend UAJA meetings monthly. Meetings are the third Wednesday of every month, with the next one set for March 18.