Wake up and smell the wastewater?!: City's lagoon assaulting east Dickinson residents' olfactory senseSpring in Dickinson brings the aroma of rain, flowers and human waste.
Spring in Dickinson brings the aroma of rain, flowers and human waste.
The smell that makes residents on the east side of town seal themselves indoors while residents in other parts of town enjoy the sunshine is coming from the city’s wastewater system and will continue periodically until it’s updated, said Jeff Brezden, water utilities manager.
“We’re doing everything on our part that we can; it’s just the city is growing so fast and the lagoon system is not designed to handle that many gallons per day,” he said.
The seasonal stink is here again and will last until the overloaded system has enough oxygen, which depends on weather, Brezden added.
Several residents said the smell this year is stomach turning and they are tired of holding their noses.
“We shouldn’t have to tolerate this,” said Jim Ladbury, who operates a funeral home on the east side of Dickinson. “I mean I feel like I’m living outside an outhouse in the campgrounds.”
The stench permeates the entire funeral home at times and makes people nauseous, he added.
“We even just dread the possibility that someone opens the front door, you know, because that just gives us another blast of it here,” Ladbury said.
The wastewater in the lagoon system freezes every winter and the lack of oxygen caused by this process brings the foul aroma every spring. Although it’s been fairly warm, it’s still cool at night which makes the aeration process take longer, Brezden said.
On top of that, the system is only supposed to take up to 1.7 million gallons per day, Brezden said.
“Right now, we’re treating right around 2.2 million gallons of water a day and it’s really stressing the system,” he said. “It takes longer to get oxygen back into the water.”
Since it’s overflowing with the increase in population, some of the water doesn’t go through 100 percent of the process, he added.
Dickinson is not the only city that’s smelly in the spring, said South Heart Mayor Floyd Hurt.
“People complain to beat heck, but there’s nothing you can do about it,” he said. “I don’t think it’s any worse. It’s just every year you’ve got that same problem.”
An expansion of South Heart’s lagoon system is being planned, but Hurt said that won’t help the smell.
Shawn Soehren, Dickinson city engineer, said officials are trying to track other possible problems Dickinson’s lagoon is facing.
“We don’t know exactly what that was,” he said. “We suspect that maybe there was a septic hauler that dumped that created problems for us.”
A $35 million wastewater facility is slated to be completed in 2014 and will be southeast of the existing lagoon system, Soehren said.
It will be completely enclosed and Brezden promises it will eliminate the not-so-sweet scent and handle 9 million gallons of wastewater.
For people like Ladbury, the upgrade can’t come soon enough, especially with increasing property values.
“If we’re going to get hammered with this increase in property values, which of course I feel is unjustified … then we better darn well see some benefit from it,” he said.