While some Saline residents have enjoyed a holiday break from work and school, others want a holiday from the odors produced by the city’s wastewater treatment plant.
The facility, accessed from South Monroe Street and located along the Saline River, has periodically produced odor problems for years. But the frequency and potency of the odor seems to have increased since the city began its $3.5 million update of the facility. Since the onset of cold weather this winter, citizen reports to the Saline Post occur more frequently. Complaints to the city have been numerous. In November, city council approved a $98,000 study of the problem. The study should be complete by August. Nobody knows what the study will find or how much it may cost to address identified issues.
But residents want answers sooner, not later.
On Dec. 23, the smell was so bad that Nichole Dell’Orco’s child threw up outside their West Henry Street home.
“My nine-year-old just threw up outside our house because the smell of the sewage is so bad. Can anyone locally help advise me and my family what we can do when the smell is literally making my children sick?” Dell’Orco said that night.
The Dell’Orco family lives around the corner from the entrance the facility. In the past, the Mayor, City Manager and members of city council have said that residents living close to the plant should expect some odor from time to time. That’s not an answer that sits well with some residents.
“It's horrible that the smell can get so bad,” Dell’Orco said. “The mayor’s response is that we should expect it because we live close to the treatment plant, but when my child is actually vomiting due to the smell, I feel there is something that needs to happen.”
It's unclear what city officials mean by “close” to the plant. West Henry Street isn’t far from the plant. The Dell’Orcos live about 1300 feet north of the plant. In between the plant and West Henry Street, the city sold land for new condominium development.
No neighborhood has been hit harder than the one that sits downwind from the plant, just across the Saline River. The residents who live along Crestwood Circle and three offshoots, Circle Court, Annwood Court, and Elmwood Court, live closest. Some homes on Elmwood Court are less than 300 feet from the plant.
Bonnie Armbruster lives on Circle Court in a small home she’s proud of. Her home was recently featured in Country Samper’s Home Tours magazine. On some days, even when all the windows are closed, she can smell the plant in her home. The smell has driven her to badger city council members and others in Saline all hours of the day.
Armbruster has taken to referring to the city as “Smelline.” It’s an unattractive moniker that is catching on. Many days the odor wafts beyond the immediate vicinity. Kat Edmonds, who lives on Pleasant Ridge Drive, has also used the phrase.
On Dec. 17, Edmonds wanted to play in the snow with her young daughter in their yard.
“But since my neighborhood now smells like a toilet we opted for something else,” she said.
She wants to see the city make progress on this issue soon.
“I think it needs to be a top priority or no one will be moving into downtown ‘smell-ine.’ Seriously, Gary, Indiana smells better than my little hometown,” Foley said.
Some residents are frustrated by what they perceive as a lack of urgency among city officials.
Saline City Councillor Dean Girbach, however, seems to have adopted the urgency of some residents.
“Priority number one for the new year is to resolve the (wastewater treatment plant) odor. I hope there will be an update or at least (preliminary) results at the first January (council) meeting,” Girbach announced on Facebook recently.
Girbach indicated that the odor issue should be placed ahead of other issues, like the Rec Center roof repair and other special projects.