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Ventura County

City to Further Staunch Stench

Sanitation: Neighbors are breathing easier as Ventura plans new odor controls for a sewage treatment facility.


Although neighbors say it's better than it used to be, the smell from the Ventura sewage plant still wrinkles a few noses now and then.

"It's just a really bad stink," said Kaye Aina, general manager of the Four Points Sheraton at the harbor. But Aina acknowledged the foul odor has become less intense over the years and so have complaints from hotel guests.

That is good news for the city.

But getting rid of the smell generated by the 9 million gallons of waste water that passes through the plant daily is expensive. The city is preparing to implement new odor controls to further stem the stench. The cost: $4 million.

"We're interested in making certain that we're not a source of odors," said Don Davis, the city's utility manager.

The plant uses carbon filtration and sulfur-eating microorganisms to turn dirty water into clear, odorless H2O before it is released into the Santa Clara River estuary.

As part of the new project, the city wants to cover four open-air tanks that hold 4 million gallons of partially treated effluent. The money for the project will come mainly from user fees.

Davis said the covers will help further reduce fumes emitted from the plant. "We work here every day so we don't really notice the smell beyond the immediate vicinity," Davis said. "We don't think neighbors even notice it, although there is always the possibility under the right winds and the right atmospheric conditions."

Aina, manager of the Sheraton, said hotel guests used to complain about the smell as often as two or three times a week.

"They would ask, 'What is that smell?' We would tell them that there is a water-treatment plant and a mushroom farm nearby," Aina said. But in the past year, he said, those complaints have dropped off considerably. And the smell, which is most noticeable in the early morning, is not as strong, he added.

There is another incentive for the city to reduce the smell at the sewage plant, formally known as the Ventura Water Reclamation Facility.

The city wants to build a $700,000 public arts project behind the plant, near Ventura Harbor and surrounding wetlands. One proposal calls for developing an educational park that would attract tourists and bird-watchers.

The park would include walkways and viewing stands around the plant's three ponds of treated effluent. Area wetlands are home to the great blue heron and other migratory birds.

Kerry Adams Hapner, the city's public arts supervisor, described the project as "an artistic approach to public amenities."

Meanwhile, Dan Pfeifer, the city's waste water superintendent, said while covering the sewage plant's storage tanks will help reduce odors, it could also mean an extra $142,000 in annual operating costs for removing the stinking air trapped inside the tanks.

But that is the price of being a good neighbor, he said.

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