August 23, 2019

Biddeford’s ugly odors prompt remedial action

BIDDEFORD – It’s another sign that spring has arrived.

When temperatures rise and the winds change, a foul odor hits Main Street.

The major culprits are the city’s 2-year-old sewage treatment plant and the Maine Energy Recovery Co. trash incinerator. Shoppers and businesspeople aren’t always sure which to blame, but they do know it stinks.

“It’s awful,” said Christine Smith. “It was so bad two days ago you couldn’t even stand to be outside.”

City and MERC officials hope the stench will soon come to an end. They’re taking steps they say will help make the downtown smell fresher.

MERC recently installed a $3.5 million odor-reduction system.

The ventilation system also was improved, increasing air changes in the tipping room, where trash is first dumped, from 50,000 to 250,000 cubic feet per minute.

“We’ve increased air changes so much, the trash doesn’t have a chance to get as odorous as it used to,” said Kenneth Robbins, MERC’s general manager.

An odor complaint earlier in the month was attributed to a rip found in a tarpaulin on the plant’s secondary shredder. Another rip was found soon afterward. Both have been repaired.

While the new odor reduction system is a big improvement, it’s unrealistic to assume that all problems from regular wear and tear can be prevented completely, Robbins said.

City Manager Bruce Benway says odors from the treatment plant at the edge of the Saco River are expected to continue until wind and weather stabilize for the summer. Meanwhile, OMI, the company that runs the plant, will try to find the right combination of sludge and bacteria to operate the facility without causing odors.

Benway says he is negotiating new contract language with OMI to establish stricter odor-response protocols. City officials are considering installing several more fans in the plant’s biofilter.

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