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Flat Creek's odors may be studied after smelly summer
FlatCreek
Flat Creek's smells may soon be examined as part of an odor study Gainesville officials are considering.

It reeked and it stank. It was nauseating and one resident called it the “Summer of Stench Hell.”

The Times even considered modifying this reporter’s job description to include a stench beat.

After all, reports of one bad smell led to complaints about other foul odors in the city. 

Now, Gainesville officials are ready to sign off on an odor study to make sure Flat Creek, one of the most polluted waterways in Hall County, and surrounding businesses are a bearable whiff for those living and working in their proximity.

It’s the first of its kind since 1996, when smells emanating from the Dewatering Press Building were met with a new odor control system.

For weeks in June and July this year, a mysterious odor hovered near a section of Flat Creek in the area of Memorial Park Drive and Murphy Boulevard.

Homeowners along Catalina Drive kept their kids indoors.

And the Environmental Protection Agency and state Environmental Protection Division were even called in to investigate. 

The source was ultimately traced to Sonstegard Foods, an egg processing plant located along Flat Creek. 

Loss of power backed up waste at an on-site treatment pond. Essentially, the pond was deprived of so much oxygen the bacteria that break it down could not survive.

Kelly Randall, director of the Department of Water Resources, said the smell was exacerbated by humid summertime weather.

The odor resembled a toilet bowl to some, raw sewage or dead insects and decomposing vegetation to others.

Extra aerators were brought in to mitigate the smell.

But some residents have complained that the stench has indiscriminately reeked for years over neighborhoods near the Hall County Government Center.

Officials said odor problems typically stem from wastewater collection systems, rather than at the Flat Creek Wastewater Reclamation Facility plant itself.

“Odors associated with wastewater collections systems typically are emitted from manholes, pumping stations and force main discharges,” according to Gainesville staff reports.

The study will focus on sections of the creek upstream from the reclamation plant. Analysis of sampling will be performed in the field to generate the clearest results.

The City Council plans to approve a $48,500 contract with Hazen and Sawyer, an environmental engineering firm with headquarters in New York City and offices in Atlanta, to perform the study.

An additional $15,000 will be budgeted for attorney’s fees, staff salaries and other contingencies.

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