Mayor Brian Marl said Saline residents concerned about the wastewater treatment plant’s foul odor should contact him or city officials rather than vent on social media.
“This is in no way meant to be disrespectful or dismissive, but when people experience odor problems, as opposed to posting things on Facebook or talking amongst ourselves, I think it would be helpful if they contacted (the plant). If it’s afterhours I’ve offered for people to call me,” Marl said, reiterating he keeps his phone on his hip and announcing his phone number (272-3654). (The plant’s phone number is 944-2003.)
The wastewater treatment plant’s odor is an issue that’s plagued neighbors since its construction. But the problem has been more pronounced since the city began a two-phase, $4.5 million improvement project.
“What seems really confusing to me is that we had really addressed the problem for quite a long while until we started doing construction in the last year and a half or so,” Councillor Dean Girbach said. “Hopefully as phase two finishes up, we are addressing it.”
Bob Scull, superintendent of water and wastewater for the city, shed some light on the subject while speaking to city council about the city’s $114,217 payment to Tetra Tech for its work on phase two of the improvement project.
“Keep in mind that the first phase left us with a lot of untreated sludge that was stored for almost a year underground in our tanks. That also affected the plant because we couldn’t operate normally,” Scull said. “That was removed in time for the new phase to start. So nothing has been normal for the last year or so.”
Girbach said he wanted to communicate that the untreated sludge was clearly part of the problem. Scull agreed.
“We’re essentially in the middle of a substantial modernization of our wastewater treatment program. While it is inconvenient and burdensome, there are going to be issues. I am hopeful that once the projects are completed we will notice a difference,” Marl said.
Marl said if the problem persists after the work is completed council will take action.
“I suspect if odor issues continue to linger and persist there is probably broad consensus from this council and from staff to investigate alternative means to mitigate that,” Marl said, before asking residents to contact him or staff with concerns.
Marl noted that last summer, on a Friday night, he took a call from a business owner.
“It resulted in having boots on the ground assessing the situation within an hour,” Marl said. “It’s helpful for people to communicate directly with staff so they can make adjustments and monitor the situation.”
Marl asked Scull to log the complaints so the city has some data to analyze.
Marl also offered to sit down and discuss the magnitude of the $4.5 million project at the wastewater treatment plant.
Several readers contacted the Saline Post about the plant’s odor Friday. Saturday, the Saline Post questioned residents on Facebook.
Saline resident Mary Hess addressed council on the issue before and after the meeting, Hess said when she was a council member she was told by an engineer that the plant wasn't built to handle sludge trucked in from other parties. She also said there was nothing wrong with venting on Facebook or talking with friends about the issue.