The $3 million stink? Chattanooga votes tonight on getting rid of smell

The $3 million stink? Chattanooga votes tonight on getting rid of smell

February 14th, 2012 by Cliff Hightower in News

Casey Hall, Moccasin Bend Wastewater Treatment Facility's plant operation manager, left, and Jerry Stewart, the City of Chattanooga's director of Waste Resources, explain how water is filtered and treated while looking down into a screening conveyor at the Moccasin Bend Wastewater Treatment Facility in this file photo.

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

STINK STUDY

A study in 2006 looked at calls to the city's 311 information line regarding smells.

172: Calls about smells

88: Calls related to the city's interceptor sewer system

19: Calls related to sewer close to Moccasin Bend Wastewater Treatment Plant

4: Calls directly related to the treatment plant

Source: Chattanooga

Daren Rogers rides up and down Pineville Road several times a week, cruising on his bicycle past the Moccasin Bend Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Every day he heads to work just over the hill from the plant at Craftique Manufacturing on Hamm Road.

In both cases, he said, there is one thing constantly in the air -- the smell.

"It does stink," Rogers said. "Quite a bit."

The Chattanooga City Council will vote tonight on a resolution to put almost $3.2 million into trying to get rid of the stink. The city plans to install scrubbers at the treatment plant, using organisms to feed on the gases emitted, said Jerry Stewart, the city's director of waste resources.

The city just wants to be "good neighbors" to those around the plant, he said.

And those neighbors are growing in size and proximity.

"What's driving it is the Moccasin Bend National Park," he said. "We also have North Shore growth moving this way."

The plant used to be "out here in the middle of nowhere. Now everything is coming to us."

But Councilwoman Deborah Scott, who represents the area, said she is not convinced that more than $3 million needs to be thrown into the toilet to help alleviate the smell at the plant.

The problem lies more with the downtown sewers and not with Moccasin Bend, she said.

"If you're not going to separate the sewer downtown, is it worth the money?" she asked. "I have my doubts."

She said she read over a city study conducted in 2006 on stench that showed only about four complaints to the city out of 172 could be related directly to the plant.

Scott said the numbers don't add up for her.

"Four is a low number," she said.

The city has had problems for years over smells emanating from its 100-year-old sewer system downtown. When it does not rain to wash out the waste, the lines start to reek.

Stewart said the idea is for Etowah, Tenn.-based Haren Construction Co. to build the scrubbers with organisms that will feed on the sulfuric acid that is a byproduct of the plant, he said. The organisms grow as they continue to feed, he said.

There are problems with the plant's odor going downtown, and winds can blow the stench across the Tennessee River, he said, but the city must look at more than just downtown.

Council Chairwoman Pam Ladd said she thinks it's important to address the odor concerns because of environmental regulations. But for her, the most important thing is just fixing the equipment.

"That plant is so old, and it has to be upgraded," she said.

Mark McKnight, spokesman for Rock/Creek Outfitters in the 2 North Shore shopping complex just a few miles down the road from the plant, said there are times when the repugnant smell hits the center.

But the big thing for him is when he goes out biking on Pineville Road, a popular spot for road cyclists. There are some moments when he's riding by the plant and the stench hits him full in the face.

"You have to hold your breath," he said.

Contact staff writer Cliff Hightower at chightower@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6480. Follow him at twitter.com/cliffhightower or facebook.com/ hightowerTFP.