Dawn Noakes wants answers after catching more than a few nose-wrinkling whiffs of a foul stench wafting in and around her neighbourhood in recent weeks.
And she’s not alone.
Multiple New Minas residents have complained of a formidable odour overtaking some local households as of late.
“It’s smelly; really smelly. It smells like sewage and you can’t open your windows,” said Noakes July 2. “The smell gets into stuff in your house, so I can’t open my windows.”
Noakes, who has lived in New Minas since 2009, said she vaguely remembers noticing the smell in various abodes she’s lived in throughout the community, “but it never lasted more than a week or so. It wasn’t that big a deal.”
This odour, Noakes contends, is different.
“This particular stench never leaves. It lingers for hours, then is gone for a while. Yesterday morning, I went outside thinking I’d have to hold my breath when I went outside, but it was gone,” Noakes said.
Then, to her dismay, the overwhelming odour returned with a vengeance.
“I asked what was going on and they said it was something going on at the sewage plant. I waited a week and you still have to pull a shirt over your face to deal with it,” Noakes said.
WHY THE SMELL?
Peter Muttart, mayor of the Municipality of the County of Kings, sympathizes with residents. “We wish this were on a smaller scale than it is,” he said.
“I have experienced the same thing in other areas in similar types of lagoons. The odour itself isn’t dangerous to anybody, but it’s an olfactory nuisance, no question about that.”
Muttart, after consulting public works, explained that the stench is a symptom of changing temperatures and weather conditions having a rather dramatic impact on the water in waste lagoons at the regional sewage treatment plant in New Minas.
“Each spring, the lagoons undergo a ‘flip’ in the water column due to warming temperature,” wrote Muttart, referring to the movement of fouler-smelling water pooled at the bottom rising to the top.
He said it’s normal for such activity to happen over the span of a week or two as spring turns to summer and, under normal circumstances, it’s more gradual and easier to control.
The lagoons are usually controlled by natural chemical bioactivity, Muttart noted.
“That process churns all of the lagoon contents, which causes some odour. The team does adjust the treatment systems to account for this but there is only so much that can be done.”
The regular phenomenon in the lagoons is similar to what happens in lakes and other water bodies as the seasons – and temperatures – change.
“Unfortunately, this year seems worse due to the unusual weather conditions this year. Namely, the lagoons normally ‘flip’ in May but this seems to have been delayed due to the cooler conditions this month,” said Muttart.
He added that there is unauthorized storm-drain water getting into the sanitary sewer system.
“We acknowledge that there are some of those we haven’t discovered,” Muttart said. “That’s like the lakes. We had to close some lakes recently due to excess water running into the lakes carrying anaerobic material with it. That puts the whole chemistry of the lake off.”
The odour is dissipating, Muttart said.
“The lagoons appear to be settling down. Water colour is back to normal.”
The municipality is continually monitoring the issue.
“We’re trying to get it quickly under control,” Muttart said, noting that the County of Kings is looking into using a perfuming product to mask the smell until the regular process is back on track.
If conditions remain stable, Muttart said the stench will not linger for much longer.
“Folks are actively working on it.”
He explained that the process to get the situation under control entails increasing aeration, causing the bacteria in the lagoons to work faster at processing the waste.
“It’s like a septic system. You have to have bugs in the septic system to eat the material and have to ensure the bugs have a proper environment to do their job.”