Stinky sewer smell brings renewed complaints

OROVILLE – An Oroville couple has again approached the city asking for their help in getting rid of the sewer gas smell they say is coming from the Eastlake sewer project.

Neil and Debbi Vigas told the council the odor is much worse as the weather warms up and has made it so they can open their windows, use their deck or yard.

“We’re here to ask about the sewer issue again… the odor and the gas… is there anything being done to correct this?” asked Neil Vigas.

Rod Noel, Superintendent of Public Works said that he has done some research on the issue and feels that whatever can be done is going to cost money.

“I got a call a few weeks ago from a resident who complained. I said it was the county’s sewer, but we do operate it,” Noel said.

“It’s so bad… you have no idea how mad I am, I can’t even go out on my own deck,” said Debbi Vigas.

Neil Vigas added, “There are health issues involved. I’ve been thinking of putting a monitor inside to see just how much gas we are being exposed to. We’ve got a sizable investment in our home.”

He said they had someone from the County Health Department to their home to inspect it.

The couple said the smell was coming out from their homes’ vent stacks, which were installed according to code, He said the smell traveled along the roof to the deck.

“Is there a way I could disconnect from the sewer system and get my money back and put in a sewer system?” asked Neal Vigas.

Noel said after complaints last year the city had closed off some of the manholes and sealed them with plastic, but that could actually add to the problem because the system is designed to let air get into it. The city also added freshwater to the system to try and help.

“We ran more water and put charcoal filters on the vents in the Lakeview Loop area. There is even a problem at Veranda (Beach Resort) at times,” Noel said.

“We know the sewer system was made to accommodate a lot of houses at Veranda, but the big complex at Veranda hasn’t happened,” Debbi Vigas said. “Using the city’s fresh, potable water to flush the system is also a concern when there are people outside the city looking for water.”

Noel said the sewer system was designed to accommodate future connections and with a greater flow the smell would probably go away. He also said he had done some research and spoken with a representative from a Spokane company that has a system that can super-oxygenate the sewage to help alleviate the problem.

“He said our sewer system is really a small system. I didn’t get any firm numbers from the company, but we’re looking at a minimum of $50,000 and a pump and building to keep the system aerobic,” Noel said. “This doesn’t just happen here, it happens all over the country.”

Noel said he didn’t know where the money would come from to pay for this or any other system to control the odor problem.

“Generally how it’s done is to assess each one of the users out there and get the dollars to fix the problem. It’s not unusual for sewer systems to be built for future expansion, but I feel the odor issue was missed in the original design,” Noel said.

“What’s wrong with inviting the county and engineers to our next meeting?” asked Kathy Jones, the city clerk.

“I think we need to bring these heads together,” added Mayor Chuck Spieth.

“Someone needs to help us. We don’t have lots of money; the city doesn’t have lots of money. It stinks and it’s a health problem,” Debbi Vigas said.

“We will continue to look into it and hopefully bring in someone that can give us some hints,” said the mayor.

About Gary DeVon

Gary DeVon is the managing editor of the Okanogan Valley Gazette-Tribune and celebrated his 25th year at the newspaper in August 2012. He graduated from Gonzaga University with a degree in Communications - Print Journalism, with an emphasis in photojournalism. He is a proud alumnus of Oroville High School. His family first settled in Okanogan County in the late 1800s. His parents are Judy DeVon and the late Larry DeVon and he has two younger brothers - Dante and Michael. Many family members still call Oroville home. He has a grown daughter, Segornae Douglas and a young granddaughter, Erin.

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