State College

UAJA working to address odor issues

The University Area Joint Authority board of directors assured township residents that work is being done at the facility to fix what residents perceive as a growing odor problem.

Residents near the UAJA site voiced their concerns to the board Thursday, saying again that on an increasing frequency, odors emanating from the facility are forcing them to stay indoors.

“It’s atrocious,” resident George Brown said, inviting board members to his home so they can experience the smell. “I don’t understand why it will take so long to fix.”

Brown also said he was confused by the survey the UAJA is undergoing in an attempt to identify the odors residents are smelling, saying trying to “diagnose 60 different smells is ridiculous.”

In August 2014, the UAJA kicked off an odor control study inviting the public to report off-site odors which the authority planned on tracking. The study also involved taking air samples — the final sample is expected to be taken this spring.

Resident Teri Spence said the smell is not only affecting residents, but also visitors, volunteers and business owners, saying people have told her they no longer want to visit the mall because of the smell.

Executive Director Cory Miller updated residents on maintenance and process modifications that have occurred since the study started. He presented a list of 48 items that included tasks like equipment cleaning and repairs, system adjustments and chemical composition changes.

Some of the modifications made were a “shot in the dark,” he said, in an attempt to effect a change. Some were scientific changes, such as changing the compost mix design which will positively impact odors coming from the compost building.

Most recently, crews discovered a partially stuck valve that was allowing air to bypass the biofilters, he said. The valve was dug up and repaired on Friday, correcting what he called a major find and could have made a difference in recent odor reductions.

One resident admitted the smell hasn’t been that bad this week.

“There’s not a day that goes by that we as the staff don’t talk about what we’re doing to make things better out there,” Miller said.

He said changes can’t be expected immediately. The best solution will likely involve capital projects, he said, which means permits. In order to get a permit, designs have to be made and public comment time must be given.

Board member Daniel Guss stressed the need for residents to complete the surveys in order to capture the data needed to know what is happening at the plant during the times residents are hit with odors.

Miller agreed, saying they are looking to capture a range of experiences — the dates and times when the smell is at its worst and when there is very little smell at all.

“The more data we get, the better the solution will be,” he said. “We have a much better chance of getting it right if you help us with the data.”