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Published April 09, 2012, 09:29 PM

Spring Brings Sewage Stench in Devils Lake

DEVILS LAKE, ND (WDAZ-TV) - People in Devils Lake are dealing with an unmistakable smell during this spring season. Since 1990, the Lemna Wastewater Facility has helped announce the season with the scent of sewage.

By: Adam Ladwig, WDAZ

DEVILS LAKE, ND (WDAZ-TV) - People in Devils Lake are dealing with an unmistakable smell during this spring season. Since 1990, the Lemna Wastewater Facility has helped announce the season with the scent of sewage.

It's the second largest treatment plant of its kind in the world.

Water at the Lemna plant is treated organically. Devils Lake Utilities Department Supervisor Joel Myhro says organic filtration is the way to go.

"Personally I would say so. If you never had to do a chemical addition, you're better off," Myhro said.

But natural filtration has a noticeable drawback.

"Well it's a sewer smell. Real strong sewer smell," Devils Lake resident Fran Schwan said.

The smell wafts through Devils Lake in the spring because warmer temperatures heat water in the plant's lagoons, which causes it to rise.

"And with that lighter water you have all your organics and your gasses. Your nitrates and your hydrogen sulfide that everyone smells," Myhro said.

At its worst, you can't escape the smell anywhere in Devils Lake.

"I can smell it in my apartment day and night when I'm there. It especially bothers me at night," Schwan said.

Wastewater travels through three different lagoons. Lemna plants in each lagoon remove phosphates and nitrates from the water before it's pumped into Devils Lake.

"Since we discharge into an immediate body of water that people use, we have to regulate our phosphate level, which has to be one part per million or less," Myhro said.

Myhro says he doesn't get criticism for the odor. He says the smell has simply become part of life for Devils Lake residents.

"They either have grown accustomed to it or know the spring of the year, when people say the spring of the year is here, it comes in a different context when you live in Devils Lake," Myhro said.

The 58-acre facility can treat 60,000 gallons of water daily, so some good does come from the smell.

The worst of the odor is behind us, but it could return any time there's a significant temperature change.

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