State College

COG meeting revisits UAJA odor issue

Following the advice given during Thursday’s College Township Council meeting, the issue of University Area Joint Authority odor rose again during Monday’s meeting of the Centre Region Council of Governments General Forum.

Comments on the issue came on the heels of a presentation of the region’s Act 537 sewage facilities plan — a plan that allows for a regional approach to sewage facilities planning.

According to Centre Region Planning Agency planner Eric Vorwald, the presentation was meant to give some background on Act 537 as the UAJA has requested to update the plan.

Act 537 was adopted in 1990, he said, with the last full update completed in 2006. As there is only one treatment facility for the entire Centre Region — UAJA — the act allows for regional consensus when coordinating wastewater treatment with land-use planning efforts.

The plan also sets the sewer service area, he said, which in turn establishes the regional growth boundary.

Plan updates can be costly. The the 2006 update cost the region about $130,000, Vorwald said. A 2009 special study amendment for a specific component of the plan cost about $100,000.

While the plan itself doesn’t address odor issues specifically, he said, it can help project land development within the sewer service area. The UAJA is currently permitted to treat and discharge 9 million gallons of water a day. Currently, it’s using 5 million of its capacity.

Should the region build out to its maximum sewage capacity — what all sections of the region are zoned for, all approved development plans — it would require an estimated 10 million gallon capacity, he said. The current plan is designed to be expanded to 12 million.

While the odor issue is not capacity-related, UAJA Executive Director Cory Miller was in attendance to update COG on measures taken to mitigate the issue.

Miller said the developments have changed in the surrounding area since the UAJA was built — neighbors that were formerly farmland have changed to numerous residences, he said. The planned facilities at the UAJA were not designed to eliminate odor.

The primary problem, he said, seems to be with the compost bio filter. The bottom layer appears to have gone anaerobic — similar to decomposition found in a swamp, which leads to odorous gasses. There appears to be aerobic digestion again — a speedier method of composting involving air circulation — which should cut down on the smell.

The UAJA will be spending several million dollars over the next few years to eliminate the odor issue, he said.

The results of an air quality study will lead to capital projects to be built that will contain or eliminate the odors.

“I can’t promise it will go away quickly,” he said, “but it will be done right the first time.”