A strong odor that visited Washington earlier this month did not come from the city’s wastewater treatment plant.
Water/Wastewater Superintendent Kevin Quaethem said the smell was the result of farmers in the area fertilizing their fields.
The fertilization is an annual process. Sometimes the smell is more noticeable than in other years. Quaethem said this year the temperatures were warmer and the wind shifted in a way that moved the smell toward the Downtown area.
Quaethem said Tuesday morning at the Board of Public Works meeting that the treatment plant received numerous calls about the smell. He assured residents and the board the plant had nothing to do with the stench.
City Councilman Josh Brinker suggested using the city’s CodeRED system to notify residents about the smell. Quaethem said city staff have been directed to use the system more, but wasn’t sure if this was the right situation.
Board member Kurt Voss said a CodeRED message might seem like the city is blaming the farmers. He said some of the bigger farmers in the area actually are doing the city a favor by land applying the treatment plant’s sludge so the city should be careful not to “beat up” farmers.
Quaethem said he was worried about bombarding people with too many messages. Other board members agreed that messages about farm smells might be an “annoyance” for citizens.
Quaethem said that sometimes smells will happen and his staff can handle the calls.
“We do live in a rural area,” he said. “Guess what’s out in a rural area? Farming.”