Linden — Residents of Creekwood Colony are asking the city of Linden and Genesee County to eliminate the odor of sewage that wafts around their neighborhood.
During the Monday, Nov. 14 Linden City Council meeting, resident Pam Buerger, who lives on Creekwood Circle, said the odor is so bad at times, they cannot leave their windows open or go for walks.
“Many residents of Creekwood Colony are concerned about the ongoing problem of the hydrogen sulfide that creates the sewer smell. We are concerned with the potential health risks, the disruption to our quality of life and the resale value of our properties. The odor is so strong at times that neighbors are unable to have their windows open,” she said. “Residents have been unable to have guests at their own home outdoors this summer. At times, we’ve been unable to take leisurely walks throughout our own city. As recently as three weeks ago, we were on our way walking down Hyatt and we were overcome by the odor.”
The sanitary sewer in question extends north into Fenton Township, enters Linden at Price’s Airport and continues through the Creekwood subdivision and across Bridge Street and then into the treatment plant. The smell also has been detected near the Loose Center, on Murphy Street, near the apartments on Linden Road and in the city offices. In mid 2018 and until 2019, Buerger said she was plagued with the odor in her house, which at times was so strong that couldn’t stay in her own home.
“It made me nauseous and gave me terrible headaches,” she said.
People have investigated the problem in the past, but were unable to determine the cause.
“We are aware that this problem has been going on for approximately 20 years and several complaints have been made to the city. We are interested to know if any action at all has been taken to correct the issue,” Buerger said. “We love our city and we want to be able to live here comfortably without the fear and risks to our health.”
Linden Department of Public Works (DPW) Director Don Grice said the issue was brought to his attention this past summer and he’s worked with the county to map out where complaints were coming from. It’s an intermittent issue in which some days the odor is an issue, and other days it’s not.
“What our theory is at this point is there’s times when the atmosphere conditions are just right where the sewer vents in the subdivisions just allow the odor to just sort of hang down at a ground level rather than rise up,” Grice said.
They installed an atmospheric release lid in an attempt to alleviate the problem, but this didn’t work. He said a biofilter is necessary and they’re working to get permission from the affected property owners.
Biofiltration is a pollution control technique that uses living material to capture and degrade pollutants.
John O’Brien, director of the Division of Water & Waste Service of the Genesee County Drain Commissioner’s Office, said a biofilter is approximately the size of a hot tub and 3-4 feet deep with a false bottom containing rooted material. Air is blown up through the filter and it’s sprayed with water. This acts as a natural biofilter because it collects and eats that material, and it treats the hydrogen sulfide.
O’Brien said the people who investigated this issue in the past no longer work for the county. He was made aware of this problem this year and discovered that these previous employees tried to “seal up the sewer system,” he said, which is what partly caused the problem.
“Sewers have to breathe,” he said. At one point, they discovered the system was pushing out air through house vents. They opened a manhole cover to create a point where the sewer could breathe without going through people’s homes.
They’re working to find a location where they can apply negative pressure to the sewer system, then let the air out and treat it instead of pushing the air along the line.
“We’re looking at putting in biosolid or biotreatment but temporarily, we’re going out and getting carbon filters. So these are short-term masking treatments. We’re going to put those in the manhole right away, while we work on getting the electric, the water onsite to put in a treatment system to take the odor out of the sewer systems,” he said. “It won’t have the hydrogen sulfide.”
They’re hoping to install the temporary carbon filters this week.
A few residents asked about health risks. One resident said the smell has gotten so bad, he’s had to evacuate his family. Grice said the DPW and the fire department have confined space gas detectors. And they can come to their residence when necessary.