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The Odor problem in Newport, TN

The odor problem in Newport, TN
Catherine Hill

The people of Newport, Tennessee have a problem. Their waste water treatment plant, which for the past few years has been sited in an industrial park, smells ‘like an outhouse in the middle of the summer’, according to one informant. Local authorities claim fixing the problem would cost 1.6 million, in addition to the money they’ve already spent on it. Currently, they are adding hydrogen peroxide to the waste water, and residents insist the smell has not abated.

Newport is a small town in Cocke County, a small county in Upper East Tennessee. Even in a big city like Metropolitan Nashville, it is often difficult to get authorities to listen to citizen complaints. It is even more difficult to get them to accept alternative solutions, even when you have experts to testify and visual aids. My first advice to Newport’s unfortunate citizens is to get this story out to some news media that will not defer to your local government’s desire to keep the problem quiet.

Another step is to contact the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation. Newport’s nearest regional office is in Knoxville and can be reached at 1-865-594-6035. All waste water treatment plants in Tennessee must be certified, and the Knoxville office needs to know when citizens are dissatisfied. According to www.state.tn.us/environment, the TDEC recently awarded several loans to improve water and wastewater systems.

There are amazing resources on the internet to press your case with the TDEC and in the media. You can download, as I did, RULES OF THE TENNESSEE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT AND CONSERVATION BOARD OF WATER AND WASTEWATER OPERATOR CERTIFICATION, so you can ask detailed questions. Many large waste water districts have their own websites explaining how they work and what measures they take to avoid odors. Also, many companies that provide odor control treatments and equipment have their own websites, like www.theodorcontrolco.com. (Interestingly, hydrogen peroxide was not one of the treatments this company suggested.)

Newport friends, make as big a noise as possible in any venue you try. Local officials get set in their ways and are often unwilling to believe anybody understands a problem better than they do.