Smell at Merrickville water treatment facility not a health concern

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A Merrickville resident is still concerned about the smell that wafted through the Village from the water treatment facility over the summer. Barry Phillips says he and his wife had their house built on Brock Street in 2008. The new water treatment facility was built near their home and opened in 2011. All was well until the summer of 2016 when, on warm summer evenings, it was impossible to sit out in their backyard because of the smell of sewage. “It was so bad, in fact, that we had to remain indoors with our windows firmly closed,” Barry says.

According to Barry, they had similar issues in 2017 and 2018. Annual reports by the Ontario Clean Water Agency (OCWA), which operates the facility, states that there were a few odour complaints noted each Fall, starting in 2015. Barry believes that the fact that the issues suddenly arose after the facility had already been in operation for several years suggests that some part of the system is faulty, or is being mismanaged. He is not the only one in the Village who feels this way. A notice circulated anonymously in the community in late Summer, outlined the worry that the smell may be related to some serious health issues for those who live close to the plant.

In a public notice released by the municipality on September 21, 2018, these concerns were addressed, the notice stating that, according to OCWA, the smell is not a health risk for the villagers. The notice says that the smell comes from part of the wastewater treatment process. The new facility uses a process called Integrated Surge Anoxic Mix, which involves removing sludge from the bottom of the primary tank and then further processing it by adding air. “It’s this part of the process that can lead to the unpleasant odour – especially in hot, humid weather,” the notice says.

The public notice did not address why this smell only became an issue in 2015, four years after the plant was built. Carlina Coleman of OWCA has now explained that, as a facility matures, the biological processes react differently to environmental changes. “This may sometimes result in adverse effects like odour issues,” she told the Times.

Gary Wheeler of the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) confirmed that the smell is caused by the natural processes of the facility. “The plant is well operated,” he says. “The Ontario Clean Water Agency continues to monitor the effectiveness of the implemented odour reduction strategies.”

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