Residents say neighborhood stinks

Something stinks on Park Street.

Dave Thomas owns a house there, and his neighbors on all sides have sold and left town because of the stench.

Homeowner Bahreh Brons spends no time outside because she says the air smells like the inside of a toilet.

Renter Cara Holway feels locked in her house and keeps her windows closed because the air outside makes her feel sick. She worries her children could be harmed.

Neighbors have traced the smell to a sewer treatment plant at the northern end of Park Street, but the city manager who overseas the site contends the stench is rotting seaweed.

“Dealing with the city has been frustrating because in spite of them being very responsive, their olfactory senses seem to fail when they visit the neighborhood,” said William and Patricia Hoke in a letter to City Council member Mike Shepherd and Mayor Cary Bozeman June 26.

Both Public Works Director Gene Sampley and Sewer Maintenance Supervisor Frank Harer acknowledged the sewer plant gives off an odor, but they say it is minimal and disappates feet from the exhaust pipe.

The smell is not hazardous, they say, and they test the pumps twice weekly to make sure the chemicals — sodium hypochlorite (bleach) and sodium hydroxide — are at healthy levels. They have also tested every manhole in the area for contaminants and found none, and the plant has passed all Departmant of Ecology inspections, they said.

John Poppe, manager of Bremerton’s waste water division, said the concentrations of those chemicals is the same as found in drinking water, and poses no threat.

Frank Harer has a different explanation of what the neighbors smell.

“It’s against the laws of nature,” for Holway or Thomas to smell the plant, he said. What they are actually smelling is Smith Bay — next to the boat launch at Evergreen Park, he said.

When the tide recedes, wind from the south blows the smell of decaying seaweed and clams through the park. The smell is worse in the summer and on hot days, he said, because more heat means more decay.

“It’s a naturally-occurring biological event,” he said.

But City Council member Mike Shepherd, and neighbors Thomas and Holway disagree.

Holway knows the difference between shore and sewage, she said. She grew up in Olympia on the bay. She loves the shore smell — but the smell in her neighborhood is gaseous.

A resident since November, Holway has called and paged Harer, plant supervisor, at least 15 times, she said.

She dreads picking up the phone again, but she’s not giving up, she said.

Residents at the condos adjacent to the plant have also complained.

Shepherd has fielded some complaints and worked from 1994 to 1996 on the planning committee to install a filtration mechanism on the sewer facility. According to him, neighbors are picking up two smells: Chlorine, used to neutralize odor, and sewage. On warm, dry days, some of the sewage sticks in the pipes on the way to the plant, he said.

Ten years ago, the storm and sewage lines on Park Street were separated, so sewage was routed to the plant instead of the bay, Sampley said. In 1996, a $100,000-odor control device was added to the treatment station.

For a while the smell was better, Thomas said, but then it returned.

A couple months ago, Sampley said, the exhaust pipe jutting out of top of the plant was extended through the trees and away from the houses. A month ago, they stuck the exhaust end in a 3-foot hole filled with gravel, to act as a fourth filter.

Despite these efforts, the smell lingers. On August 6, the Hokes posted signs on area telephone poles asking anyone who walked by to call the city if they noticed a foul odor.

Pretending there is no smell is no solution and it insults those of us who have had to live it,” said the Hokes in their letter.

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