Portland Water District Has Plan to Ease (Intermittent) Odor on East End; City To Set Public Meeting Date Next Month

By Carol McCracken  (Post # 1,265)

The Portland Water District has a plan, albeit  a draft plan, to ease the strong odors that have been emanating from the East End Wastewater Treatment Plant since this past summer -  and the “PWD” is looking forward to meeting with the public to discuss this 12 page draft plan.  The City is expected to schedule the public meeting for sometime in early December. 

The issue came up at the District 1 Neighborhood Meeting on November 7th.  At that time, it was mentioned that a group of concerned Hill residents had met with Mayor MIchael Brennan in October to air their frustration at the intensified odor coming from the Plant which is tucked  under the Eastern Promenade on a landfill.  It is mostly out of sight of Promenade residents, but not out of smell  from some residents.   Plant employees had also noticed an intensified, although intermittent, odor during the summer months as well, said Scott Firmin, director of waste water treatment for the PWD in a telephone interview  last  Monday. That “uptick” in odor alone motivated an investigation by the PWD  to detect the source of the odor.

The comprehensive draft plan prepared by the PWD’s consultant, Bowker & Associates,  contains an overview of the problem, charts and nine recommendations on how to alleviate the intensified odors.  Some of them have already been underaken by the PWD and others need the assistance of the public.  For example, the Bowker draft plan recommends that the PWD install a weather station at the Plant to monitor wind speed and direction.  This would permit staff to “adjust operations to minimize odors during conditions of high  ‘odor detection potential’ as well as review eather conditions that occurred during an odor episode.”  According to Firmin, the PWD is researching the best type of weather station for this Plant on the Prom.  Another recommendation that Frimin likes is the creation of a core-group of “odor observers” that claim to be routinely affected by the odors.  “They could be given a two-hour training session on identification and characterization of odor, and asked to maintain a log of odor episodes that may help identify the sources of odor.”    Identifying the source of the problem by the type of smell, as determined by this core group, would be instrumental in alleviating the issue.  It’s expected that a final plan of action for alleviating the odor will be agreed upon by all parties at the public meeting next month. The final plan will be distributed thereafter.

Twenty million gallons of sewage are processed at the East End Wastewater Plant every day for the city of Portland and its the only such plant in the city.  This plant is the largest in Maine.  “It’s located in a challenging place because of its proximity to a residential community,” said Firmin.  “A lot of development has occured since 1979.”  The Plant was established in 1979 in response to the Clean Water Act of 1972 authored by Maine’s own legendary Senator Ed Muskie.   Prior to that waste water was deposited into Back Cove, the Fore River and Portland Harbor. 

“We want to be a good neighbor to the residents of the Eastern Promenade.  We take all comments seriously and if there is something we can do, we will.  We also need the assistance of those impacted by the odor,” said Firmin.

Please see Post # 1,254, dated 11//7/12 herein for more information on the District 1 Neighborhood Meeting.