City develops action plan for wastewater plant

Kevin Wilson: PNT Staff Writer

For some Portales residents, the current condition of the wastewater plant in the south part of the city — for lack of a better term — stinks.

High nitrogen levels and a sludge buildup led to an unpleasant odor throughout the summer for many near the wastewater treatment plant. Matt Brady of Portales said he first noticed the smell about eight months ago and has made numerous complaints to the city.

“It seems like about 10 years because it’s miserable,” Brady said. “We’re a family that loves to do things outside.

“We’ll be outside barbecuing and we have to bring the food in (because of the smell). I had my parents down here two months ago and they were sick to their stomachs.”

Brady’s concern is that the city doesn’t seem to care about the problem, but city officials have said they are aware of the situationand are trying to work through the appropriate channels to fix the problem.

Tom Howell, the city’s public works director, said the wastewater in the plant’s lagoons contains too much nitrogen.

“We’re high because of TKN,” Howell said, referring to total kjeldal nitrogen. “We’re supposed to keep that number below 10 (parts per million) and we’re in the 20s.”

The term kjeldal refers to the type of test done on the nitrogen, according to Robert Long, an assistant professor of chemistry at Eastern New Mexico University. Long said the nitrogen is converted into a form that can be tested.

The city has put out a release to notify residents of an action plan to address the odor problem. The city has contracted with Molzen Corbin of Albuquerque to work on the high nitrogen levels.

“What we’re trying to do (with the release) is let people understand we’re aware of the situation,” Howell said. “Because of the permitting process, we have to follow procedures. When we’re in violation, (the state environmental department has) to approve our corrective action.”

The city will remove a sludge buildup from the north aerated lagoon and double the number of aerators from three to six, according to the release.

City Manager Debi Lee said the city is currently working out the details with the state environmental department.

“We budgeted the money,” Lee said. “We’re waiting to get approval from the environmental department so we can clear out that sludge. It should be a huge improvement by next spring.”

Lee said with temperatures cooling down, the odor should not be as much of a problem.

For information, contact Howell at 356-6662.