Some days it’s so bad that Darrell Wilson can’t stand being at his home.
Wilson lives in the Chisholm Trails housing addition near Mustang’s Waste Water Treatment Plant, and on days there is a strong north wind, the stench is almost unbearable. He addressed the issue at last week’s City Council meeting.
"Sometimes I can’t live in my house because it is that bad," said Wilson, who uses a breathing machine. "It is not just the smell, it also affects my breathing."
Dennis Merrill is the project manager for Mustang’s public works department and says he is fully aware of the issue.
"I have been working at this plant for about a year now and I have been in this community for about 30 years so I am very familiar with the problems," Merrill said. "What is really odd this year is the north winds we have been receiving that has been pushing the odors towards these houses. I really regret the problems we are causing those people in those neighborhoods and if I could flip the switch to make it all better I would."
Merrill said one of the only ways to control odor was to grow algae at the lagoon.
"Algae will make a biological system and we have been trying to do that," he said. "I have also added sodium nitrate to the lagoon to encourage that."
Merrill says he has proposed a plan to expand the city’s waste water treatment plant that would not only address the odor, but would also increase the plant’s capacity.
With the plant’s current system, raw sewage goes into a grinder, before going into a lift pump that moves it to the facility’s basement and comes to a grit-removal system. Then it finally goes into one of the two Sequencing Batch Reactor (SBR) cells.
"The SBRs are the heart of the treatment process," Merrill said. "What happens is, when one of the SBRs are not able to run at a certain time when sewage is coming in, the sewage is sent to the lagoon."
Merrill said he is proposing to add a third SBR cell.
"That way, the odds of one of the cells not being ready for treatment are very low and we would not have to send that sewage out to the lagoon," he said. "Another thing I am proposing is to restore the piping in the basement back to the way it was originally so I can move a lot of water if I need to."
The cost to expand the facility could cost around $250,000, Merrill said.
"That would increase our rating capacity from two million gallons a day to three million gallons a day," he said. "Our ability to pump during storm events would go up to five million gallons, so it would do a lot of good things for us. It would also help with the odor issue a lot."
Mustang City Manager Tim Rooney said the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) visited the facility for an inspection on Thursday.
"They said the smell wasn’t as bad as it was the last time they visited," Rooney said. "Back in 2007, DEQ gave the city a consent order that involved doubling the size of the facility, but we are making an amendment to that order so we can go from a capacity of two million gallons a day to three million gallons a day."
Merrill said he plans to inform DEQ of his plan to improve the plant.
"I think it is the best and most cost-effective way to do this," he said.
Mayor Jay Adams stressed that the city will continue to fight to stop the stink for residents living near the facility.
"We are doing everything we can to resolve the issue," Adams said.