Do You Smell That? East Side Residents Deal With Obnoxious Odors
A number of factors, from the MMSD plant to algae to composting, are contributing to foul smells on the east side of Oak Creek.
Farmers' struggles growing crops and dangerous conditions for fires have been two of the more high-profile effects of this hot and dry summer.
Now, add stink to the list.
The area on the far east side of Oak Creek has been plagued by foul odors for the past several weeks. City officials and the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewage District, which operates its wastewater treatment plant at 8500 S. Fifth Ave., have fielded complaints from residents living in the neighborhood.
Jason Smith, who lives about three miles from the MMSD plant, said it reached far enough to put a cramp on his Fourth of July party.
"Everyone attending noticed the smell and commented on it," he said. "It was embarrassing.
"It is there nearly daily and is really a problem."
Smith described it as a strong seaweed, soupy smell. He said it hasn't been as bad in recent days, but worries about the impact not only for residents, but for the city's lakefront redevelopment plans.
A number of things could cause the odor, officials said.
The most recent complaints MMSD received about the smell around the South Shore plant came in on Friday, according to spokesman Bill Graffin.
"The dry, hot weather means less water in the sewers and it takes longer for the sanitary flows to get to the facility," Graffin said.
MMSD responded by pumping water from the Deep Tunnel to South Shore to dilute the concentrated flows coming into the sewer system.
But some of the smells have come from Growing Power's composting operation at the MMSD plant, Graffin said. As a result, the sewage district instructed Growing Power to stop bringing in compost except for woodchips. That ban is still in place.
Not all of the odor complaints are related to the MMSD plant, Graffin said. It could be the city of South Milwaukee wastewater treatment plant, stagnant water in sewers due to lack of rain, algae or a number of other possibilities.
Algae has built up along the Lake Michigan shores in Oak Creek. City Health Officer Judi Price said there's little the city can do, except hope for rain and wind to clear it up.
For MMSD, Graffin said: "We take these issues very seriously and urge anyone to call us immediately if they notice a problem so we can investigate and correct the issues that are in our control."
Oak Creek Mayor Steve Scaffidi said a change in weather will be the biggest factor in clearing up the air. He added the city and county are monitoring the problems and doing what they can to address them.
"The heat, the materials, the lack of rain all contributed to what was a pretty foul smell," Scaffidi said. "People along the lakefront are getting the brunt of it."