SPRING HILL — For as long as many of the neighbors can remember, the right breeze and conditions made it impossible to hide the Osowaw Boulevard sewage treatment plant just west of U.S. 19.
More than a decade ago when plans for a large retail development on the southwest corner of the intersection had just been placed on the table, opponents called the yet unnamed project "Smell-Mart.''
Now, Hernando County's utilities department is going to try one more time to snuff the stink that rises from the aging plant.
Past efforts never seemed to do the trick. The previous operator, Florida Water Services, tried injecting hydrogen peroxide into the lines just before they got to the plant and put industrial bleach into the system's largest pump station.
The smell persisted.
At another point, the firm proposed placing a large dome over the site to contain the odors, but the plan was never implemented and the complaints have continued.
Now the County Commission has approved a two-stage plan to attack the smell both at a major sewage lift station off Quality Drive near Spring Hill Regional Hospital and at the plant itself.
County utilities director Joe Stapf said it is the county's job to try to solve the problem.
"We need to conduct our business and operate our facilities in a way that does not inconvenience or offend or impinge on our neighbors' use of their property,'' Stapf said.
The first part of the plan will begin early next month and take just a few weeks. Hernando County will use the same contractor Pasco County hired on a low bid to remove sand and grit that has accumulated in the basins of the treatment plant at the cost of $304,850.
Organic material decaying in those basins contributes to the overall odor problem, Stapf said. The task is a good housekeeping move because the plant "can't operate to its optimum'' with that buildup.
The second phase will be to install a system to apply the chemical Bioxide at the sewage lift station at Quality Drive. The substance uses calcium nitrate to curb the bacteria growth that produces the stinky hydrogen sulfide in the lines.
As the wastewater travels the 8 1/2 miles from the lift station to the sewer plant, which takes an average of 14 hours, the hydrogen sulfide increases. Tests have shown it can grow as much as 10 times from its level at the lift station.
The cost for the system is $96,907 per year, and installation should be done by the beginning of September. The company offers a guarantee that if the odor persists after 30 days, the county won't have to pay the bill.
"If this works, and we expect it to work, we may consider applying it to a couple of other sites,'' Stapf said.
Even as the utilities department implements the changes, it also is moving toward the ultimate solution, which is the final closure of the Spring Hill plant.
Engineers are working to secure easements and right of way agreements that will eventually allow line construction to connect that major lift station to the Airport Wastewater Treatment Plant 3 1/2 miles away.
The airport facility is expected to be completed in 2013.
Stapf said decades in the wastewater business have taught him that odor problems around wastewater facilities are rampant and difficult to alleviate. He also said he knows that even if the new efforts wipe out 95 percent of the odor, there will still be odor complaints about the plant.
As a former boss told Stapf years ago, "We ain't making cookies here.''
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 848-1434.