Here’s why it has been a bit stinky in Gypsum lately |

Here’s why it has been a bit stinky in Gypsum lately

Town engineer says plant has seen more sludge build up over winter months

Gypsum's wastewater treatment plant is difficult to spot, tucked into a corner of the Eagle River Estates subdivision. But it hasn't been hard to locate by smell the past couple of weeks. The issue has nothing to do with the high runoff in the Eagle River but rather to a backlog of solids that happened over the winter months.
Pam Boyd/

GYPSUM — It has been aromatic around Gypsum the past couple of weeks, and we aren’t talking about blossoms and perfume.

Rather, town residents have been intermittently sniffing sewer stench, and it hasn’t been enjoyable. But it hasn’t been a constant problem either, and for those who like to sniff on the bright side, it’s a sign of summer’s arrival.

According to Gypsum Town Engineer Jim Hancock, solid materials build up at the town’s wastewater treatment plant basins during the course of the winter. The plant is located adjacent to the Eagle River Estates subdivision.

“In the spring, as soon as conditions permit, we compress them and haul them away,” Hancock said.

The term for the material is sludge and Hancock noted, as plumbing fixtures have become more efficient, the town has seen more sludge build up during the cold winter months.

“This spring, we have been in our normal course of catching up and there was just more to catch up with,” Hancock said.

Escaping odors

There is, of course, a science involved in effective wastewater treatment and you can even watch a YouTube video explaining the process. But for those who prefer a less vivid description, Hancock noted that frequent aeration of sludge is how the odor is minimized.

“But because we have been running so much to catch up to get the sludge out, we have had longer times between aeration,” Hancock said. “You can’t unload materials and aerate at the same time and once the aeration gets going, it doesn’t smell.”

When the sewer odor wafted over town, it signaled a switch from sludge activity to aeration activity. It also proved to be an elusive problem to locate.

“I personally went out there a couple of times after hearing about the odor and didn’t detect it myself,” Hancock said.

Residents reported the odor issue was more common in the evening and while it was definitely detectable, it would dissipate after a few minutes.

The issue has nothing to do with the high runoff level of the Eagle River, Hancock noted. Additionally, he said the Gypsum wastewater plant crew has been working long hours to catch up with the sludge issue and solve the odor problem.

“Our plant operator said he is catching up with the sludge volume and was going to be aerating throughout last weekend. He felt that this week, the odor issue will be better,” Hancock said.

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