Spring may be in the air, but so is something else.
The air has not been so sweet at times recently in the vicinity of Salmon Arm’s sewage treatment plant – or Water Pollution Control Centre as it’s officially called.
A check with a couple of nearby businesses confirms that unseemly scents are not unusual.
At Super Save Gas, owner Dave Fehr says things get stinky about once a week.
“Normally we don’t smell it but once in while it’s just horrific… I think they turn it over on certain days. Some days it gets a bit high. Once a week I would say.”
Next door to the plant, staff at Churches Thrift Shop have a similar tale to tell.
Sanny Duqué supervises the receiving area outside.
“There are certain times of the day we do get that type of smell,” he says, noting the guys working there have been exposed to it for quite a while but haven’t complained of any health effects.
“It’s maybe comparable to living within the chicken farm community. At certain times of the day and when the wind blows…”
Nick Kolotylo, also a supervisor, says lately the smell hasn’t been as bad as usual because cold temperatures seem to help. But Tuesday it was sunny and warmer.
“It was a little bit worse on Tuesday for sure.”
When the temperatures aren’t cold, “it’s pretty smelly most times. Everyone comments on it – ‘Ooh, it smells here.’”
He adds that friends of his live right next door to the sewage treatment plant in Vernon, yet there they can sit outside on a summer day and don’t smell anything.
“Here we’re right next door and it’s pretty overpowering.”
Rob Niewenhiuzen, the city’s director of engineering and public works, emphasizes the plant has an extensive odour control system.
“We utilize a bio-scrubber, ozone and four-stage wet chemical scrubber process. The foul air from the headworks, biosolids, trickling filter and piping gallery areas are treated by a single-stage wet chemical scrubber… You may get some residual odours from the plant when there is a fluctuation in atmospheric pressure or when we experience temperature inversions.”
Mayor Alan Harrison says work on reducing odours has been ongoing for some time. Moving the plant has been considered, but is an expensive proposition.
“To move it would probably be about $60 million,” he says. “And that doesn’t include finding a spot to put it, and having to hook up all the sewage lines to it.”
He points that all the city’s large, difficult problems like the highway, railway and sewage treatment plant exist because of historic reasons. In cities like Salmon Arm that are built on hillsides, and pumping then wasn’t what it is now, sewage treatment plants were placed on low land, and close to where people live.
In the long term it would be good to move it, he says, but it isn’t economically feasible now.
Harrison adds that he will inquire to see what methods are used in Vernon.