The Fire Chief Project: Don’t believe it? Smell for yourself.

Members of the media take an “olfactory tour” of a clean-water plant in Terre-Haute, Ind.

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The Indiana city of Terre Haute plans to expand processing of other communities’ waste activated sludge at its wastewater treatment plant as part of a biodiesel fuel project.

Some in the community are worried about odors. Mayor Duke Bennett had a remedy for such concerns: Invite the news media to view the pant processes and let them smell for themselves.

Judging from an account of the tour written by Arthur Foulkes in the Terre Haute Tribune Star newspaper, the tour was a success. The story described visits to various areas of the plant and at no point contradicted Bennett’s and plant director Mark Thompson’s contention that no odor was present. In fact, Foulkes reported that while he stood next to large piles of dewatered biosolids, “No odor was detectable.”

The tour started atop large open-air tanks for storing and mixing waste activated sludge. The group also stopped at the point where tanker trucks deliver waste activated sludge from the treatment plant in West Terre Haute, and at the plant’s biosolids dewatering centrifuges.

Foulkes took the extra step of talking to people who work or own businesses near the plant. They said they had noticed significant improvement in odors, or absence of odors, since the plant was last upgraded.

The news report said Terre Haute has been taking sludge from West Terre Haute for several years. The plan is to take sludge from additional cities, process and dewater it to about 22 percent solids, and give it to Powerdyne, a private company, to convert to biodiesel fuel in a facility (also odorless) to be built on the plant site. Bennett indicated the city would earn revenue for processing the additional sludge.

“Our goal has been to eliminate the smell,” Bennett told the newspaper. “A lot of that talk out there is purely that, it has no basis to it.”

Powerdyne representatives were expected to attend a Feb. 12 public hearing before the city council. Bennett told the paper he wants to have a public open house and tour at the plant in summer.

You can read more about the “olfactory tour” at the Tribune Star's website.


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