BENNINGTON — Foul smells from the town's wastewater treatment plant stem from broken-down components which should be repaired soon, officials say.
Colleen Healy, a North Bennington resident who spoke during the public comment period at Monday's Select Board meeting, called the smells "putrid" and a health hazard. She said the smell has kept some people away from the Walloomsac River, including fly fishermen and others who use the area for recreation.
Healy said she first complained to officials in June and that she and other residents haven't heard about what's going to be done to fix it.
"I received letters from the town saying thank you for being a good neighbour, but I'm done with being a good neighbour, and I would like to know how we will move forward," Healy told Select Board members.
Town Manager Stuart Hurd said he was told the smell was particularly bad on Friday. The problem stems from multiple rotating biological contractors, or RBCs, according to Hurd. The components are used after the primary treatment. The plant has 32 RBCs and regularly use 24. But because of equipment failures, only 10 RBCs are now working.
Hurd said the loss of the RBC units affected other parts of the treatment process, leading to bad smells. Hurd said the operators are tweaking the process to ensure bad smells don't continue while the RBCs are brought back online.
Four of the RBCs will be repaired by the end of the week, Hurd said. A delivery of new gearboxes is expected by early next week.
"We think we'll have 24 units operating in two weeks," Hurd said.
The wastewater treatment facility on Harrington Road was built in 1962. A major upgrade was installed in 1985 and other upgrades followed in 1992 and 2000. The plant biologically treats municipal wastewater, or sewage. The treated wastewater, known as effluent, is discharged into the Walloomsac River.
Town and water department officials have discussed the aging facility for several years. A study commissioned in 2012 pegged the replacement cost at more than $12 million.
Hurd said the town has been replacing RBC components on a rolling basis and a bond vote for upgrades was planned for March 2018. But gearboxes in eight RBC units that were recently replaced failed within days. Letters will be sent to residents near the treatment plant. Select Board members agreed it's important to communicate updates to the public.
Engineers are evaluating the plant, Hurd said. A bond vote could come in 2017.
— Contact Ed Damon at 802-447-7567, ext. 111.