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updated: 9/15/2017 6:09 AM

Neighbors demand fix to overwhelming stink from Glen Ellyn-area sewer plant

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  • Kate Gibson was one of many residents who voiced opinions Thursday night about the noxious smell coming from the Glenbard Wastewater Treatment Authority facility. Gibson and her family recently purchased a house near the plant.

      Kate Gibson was one of many residents who voiced opinions Thursday night about the noxious smell coming from the Glenbard Wastewater Treatment Authority facility. Gibson and her family recently purchased a house near the plant.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Residents in a Glen Ellyn-area neighborhood are complaining about a nauseating smell coming from a nearby sewage treatment plant.

      Residents in a Glen Ellyn-area neighborhood are complaining about a nauseating smell coming from a nearby sewage treatment plant.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • A new system that creates biogas at the Glenbard Wastewater Authority facility in Glen Ellyn is the source of a smell that neighbors have been complaining about.

      A new system that creates biogas at the Glenbard Wastewater Authority facility in Glen Ellyn is the source of a smell that neighbors have been complaining about.
    Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Erik Lanphier, executive director of the Glenbard Wastewater Authority, listens to a resident concerned about the smell coming from the authority's sewage treatment plant in Glen Ellyn.

      Erik Lanphier, executive director of the Glenbard Wastewater Authority, listens to a resident concerned about the smell coming from the authority's sewage treatment plant in Glen Ellyn.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

 
 

Residents near a sewage treatment plant are complaining of a putrid smell that has permeated their Glen Ellyn-area neighborhood for weeks.

Now they want someone, anyone, to do something about it.

"I have lived here for almost 18 years," said Heather Sebahar, whose house is down the road from the Glenbard Wastewater Authority. "It's never smelled this bad this long."

In the past, Sebahar and other neighbors in the Butterfield West subdivision have dealt with occasional odors from the plant along Bemis Road that treats sewer water from more than 109,000 homes and businesses in and near Glen Ellyn and Lombard.

But those previous occurrences would last only a day or two.

The latest stink wafting from the plant has been ongoing since the beginning of August.

Glenbard Wastewater Authority officials say the source of the smell is a new system that creates biogas, which is used to run the plant. The system, which went online last year, uses grease and other food waste to produce the biogas.

During the first week of August, the authority received a higher-than-normal amount of grease from haulers. So officials ended up putting too much material into the system, which caused a disruption.

"It was a mistake that we had made as part of this new program," said Erik Lanphier, the authority's executive director. "We ceased operation the week after and haven't received anything since. We haven't had any of that material roll in here in a month."

Lanphier said the slip-up that caused the problem won't occur again. In the meantime, it's unclear when the odor will clear up completely.

"We're doing everything in our power to reduce the impact to the neighborhood," he said.

Sebahar said the foul odor, which reminds many of a zoo, has been so bad that it causes some people to dry heave.

Glenda Ross, who has lived in the neighborhood for a decade, said the smell can be unbearable.

"There have been times we've had to close the windows at night because of the smell," Ross said.

Thursday morning, the smell wasn't noticeable at Westfield Elementary School, which is immediately south of the wastewater treatment facility. But parents dropping off their kids said the odor was a problem as recently as Tuesday.

Neighbor Cara Lawrence said the odor outside her home was unpleasant Sunday during her daughter's birthday party.

"It got really bad for like 10 minutes," Lawrence said. "Everybody was holding their nose. I was just embarrassed."

Since the beginning of August, there have been 127 odor complaints lodged against the facility, officials said. There were only four complaints during the first seven months of the year.

On Thursday night, Glenbard Wastewater Authority officials apologized to more than 110 people attending a meeting at Westfield school. After explaining how the incident happened, they talked about the remediation process.

"We take responsibility for what we did," Lanphier told the audience. "It was a mistake. It's not going to happen again. We're going to put protocols in place to make sure that this doesn't happen again."

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