What's that pungent smell in east Kennewick?

What's that pungent smell in east Kennewick? »Play Video
KENNEWICK, Wash. -- People living in east Kennewick called KEPR to report a pungent smell. The wastewater treatment plant is especially stinky this year. We found out why and how long it will last.

Railroad worker Darrell Brown doesn't normally run into nasty smells on the job.

"I went up to do the inspection on the switch, and the smell was so bad I covered my nose and mouth and vacated the premises," said Brown.

The smell is human waste. It's coming from the nearby waste treatment plant. When the wind blows, east Kennewick neighbors are hit with it.

Brown continued, "As I was coming back, I was thinking how bad it would be if you lived on the far side, because if you get a southerly wind, it's going to blow right in your house."

People called KEPR to complain about the smell. Kennewick Wastewater Services says they've received calls as well.

"Yesterday we were getting calls from residents on the east side of the lagoons, and today I received one over here on the west side," said Kennewick Wastewater Services supervisor Chris Espinoza.

KEPR's reporter stood on the other side of the tanks. When the wind hits you just perfectly, you can really smell what's inside those tanks.

And what's inside those tanks is sewage. The solid part of the waste ends up on the bottom of the tanks, until one day every spring.

"It literally happens overnight," said Espinoza.

What happens is what's called turnover. The sewage at the bottom floats to the top. Wastewater Services calls it a biological process.

"Nature is driving this," Espinoza said.

Nature also leaves behind a filthy coating and a nasty smell. It's especially heavy this year.

"We don't know the quantity of sludge that's going to turn over, but, by the appearance, it's quite a bit," said Espinoza.

There's not much that can be done except wait it out. The air should clear in a few weeks.

The city of Kennewick is looking at alternatives to handling waste which would potentially alleviate lagoons that go through the turnover process in the future.