The Haines Borough’s sewer treatment plant smells. But the odor isn’t just bad, some business owners and public officials say, it’s “almost intolerable.”
Mayor Stephanie Scott said she’s been pressing the borough for the past several years to fix the problem and maintains the smell has only worsened with time. “I’ve been complaining for years. I go over to the fairgrounds and I say, ‘Oh my god, do you guys smell this?’ And it’s only gotten worse,” Scott said.
Fred Bretthauer, co-owner of the RV park located across the Haines Highway from the sewer plant, has phoned in complaints to the borough about odor driving customers from his park.
“I want the borough to deal with it now, because people are living here,” said Scott. “And you have all these people in the RV park saying, ‘I’m not coming back to Haines. It stinks.’ That’s not a good advertisement.”
“(Bretthauer) was visibly shaken when he came in to see us and he said that it was nauseating. It was as if he was inside the plant,” Scott said.
On Aug. 1, Bretthauer called the police to complain about the smell. Officer Adam Patterson traveled to the RV park and confirmed the smell was bad there.
Bretthauer declined comment.
Public facilities director Carlos Jimenez said because Community Waste Solutions can take sludge only intermittently, the waste has to sit at the sewer treatment facility waiting to be processed. When workers go to process it, the ventilation has to be shut off to help the material settle.
“When (the fans) come back on, it’s very pungent, and if the breeze happens to be going toward the RV park it smells really bad,” Jimenez said.
Scott said she is concerned the state Department of Environmental Conservation will intervene if the borough doesn’t address the problem. “It’s going to rise to the level of an emergency and we’re going to have to throw a whole bunch of money at it. You can’t have noxious fumes emanating from anywhere.”
When asked where the line is between normal sewer treatment plant smell and unacceptable stench, Scott said, “When it makes you feel like you’re going to throw up.”
The assembly passed a resolution July 23 establishing sewer upgrades as the borough’s “number one local state-funded priority” in the hopes of scoring points on an application to the DEC for $2 million in upgrades.
Some of the upgrades would address the odor issue by making the sludge treatment process more efficient and less expensive.
Jimenez said the application to DEC was submitted Monday. “I don’t think we’re going to find out about that until later this fall. None of this construction would be able to happen before next summer,” he said.
In the meantime, Jimenez is investigating short-term fixes, though he isn’t convinced of their efficacy. He’s looking into “scrubbers,” which clean air before discharge.
“It’s almost like sending it through an air freshener before, like a filter... I’m not really sure how effective they would be,” he said.