Sludge removal cause of downtown sewage smell
The sewage smell that pervaded lower downtown Glenwood Springs for a couple of days last week will likely return for an encore in the coming days and into early September, but is about to go away for good soon after that.
According to the city’s wastewater plant supervisor, Trent Mahaffey, the recent stench was caused by the removal of biosolids from storage at the former wastewater plant site on Seventh Street for transport to a ranch north of New Castle. Sludge left over from the treatment process is used for fertilizer at the ranch.
“When it’s just sitting in the drying beds, you don’t even notice it,” Mahaffey said. “But when you start stirring it up, that’s when the odor is there.”
The smell wafting through the air last Thursday and Friday was reminiscent of the days when the city’s main sewer plant was located downtown before the new, state-of-the-art plant south of the Colorado River in West Glenwood opened in 2012.
“Unfortunately, there’s nothing not stinky about the process to move the sludge material,” Mahaffey said.
The city had hoped to have its new drying beds at the South Canyon Landfill ready to use by this summer, he said. But delays in completing that project have meant the sludge had to be stored at the old plant site in the meantime.
“We just finished pouring the concrete on the new beds up at the landfill, and are waiting for the final inspections to be completed,” Mahaffey said. “Once that happens, we can store all of our sludge up there.”
The new drying facility will have a capacity of 400 dry metric tons, roughly the same as the storage area at the old sewer plant.
About 50 dry metric tons of sludge remain at the old plant, which is scheduled to be removed for land application when the weather dries out a bit, he said.
“We are hoping this is going to be the last big haul,” Mahaffey said. “We’re probably looking at another four or five days when it might get stinky again.”
Once the new South Canyon facility is ready, the old downtown storage beds will be decommissioned, he said.
Sludge is typically transported from the wastewater plant to the drying beds at least once a week. After it has dried, it is taken to the ranch for land application usually for or five times between May and October, Mahaffey said.
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Policy that dictates what for-profit activities should be officially sanctioned within Glenwood Springs parks is being reviewed by city staff and will likely come before the city council for final approval later this summer.