Residents of the North 40 aren’t too pleased with their neighbor, who they say is stinking up the place more than usual.
The Aspen Consolidated Sanitation District, which operates the wastewater treatment facility, is located directly below the housing subdivision near the Airport Business Center.
Nathan Nelson, operations manager for the facility, said he’s been fielding complaints in recent weeks from residents about the stench that’s being carried into their homes.
The problem appears to stem from the facility’s odor control system, which apparently is breaking down at some point in the biological process.
Nelson has sent samples of the system’s “media,” which consists of redwood chips and rocks that bacteria grows in, to the manufacturer. Biorem, the Canada-based company, said the sample came back normal. An air sample was sent out last week and Nelson is awaiting the results, in the hopes of determining where the breakdown might be in the process.
“Everyone down here will admit that it smells,” he said. “We’re trying to fix it.”
During different phases of the wastewater treatment and collection process, various gases are released at different concentrations. According to Biorem’s website, its design “allows us to create an odor control system to remove and destroy the various odor-causing compounds, resulting in cleaner air streams for you and your surrounding communities.”
Nelson said he has requested that a representative from Biorem make a site visit so he or she can smell for themselves what is going on.
The system, which includes a tank 12 feet below ground with exhaust fans and pipes, is designed so that air going through the media breaks down the bacteria and the compounds from the treatment facility.
“It’s nice to do things biologically if you can because you are making the bacteria do the work for you,” Nelson said. “We were sold this system as a maintenance free, set it and forget it [system].”
Nelson stressed that the issue with the odor control system, which was installed in 2007, has no bearing on the facility’s wastewater treatment operations.
“The treatment process is working properly and the [treated] wastewater is exceeding state levels” when put into the Roaring Fork River. “The environment is not at all at risk.”
Nelson also pointed out that there is an inherent smell in dealing with sewage that can’t be avoided.
“We are not treating roses down here,” he joked.
Residents at North 40 are aware that they bought their homes above a sewage treatment plant, and with that comes a certain amount of stench.
But Mike Tullar, president of the homeowner’s association there, said this has been a consistent stink for a two- or three-week period.
“There are probably 10 days a year that are bad but they are not in a row like this,” he said.
Tullar has lived in the North 40 for a decade and remembers that the sewage smell used to be way worse. He said he appreciates what the employees at the plant are doing to rectify the situation.
“I hope it remedies itself sooner rather than later,” Tullar said.
So does Nelson.
“We are still not completely giving up on this system,” he said. “Hopefully we can make it work. We want to be a good neighbor but at the same time, it’s not our primary focus. Our primary focus is the environmental health of the receiving stream, the Roaring Fork River.”