Odor Complaints in Milpitas Rose During October

Milpitas and San Jose city officials indicate progress is being made toward solving the city's odor problems.

According to the Milpitas City Council at its Nov. 1 meeting, the City saw an increase in the number of odor complaints by residents during the month of October.

Nevertheless, the Council says steady progress is being made towards the

The (WPCP) began its investigation into the environmental impact of the biosolid conversion process in April, and will finish in approximately two years. City officials from both San Jose and Milpitas, along with private consultants for Milpitas' McCarthy Ranch shopping center, have been looking into various ways to complete the process.

There are currently two models for the project. According to the McCarthy Ranch consultants' plan, the conversion would be complete in 2019. The year 2025 is when the City of San Jose's plan would be complete, though San Jose officials say they are examining whether the McCarthy Ranch consultants' quicker model is feasible. 

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) received 14 odor complaints in October, which was higher than usual, according to Kathleen Phalen, utility engineer for the City of Milpitas. However, she said this is a seasonal problem due to the annual haul of dried biosolids from the San Jose/Santa Clara water control plant to the Allied Waste/Newby Island landfill. This process takes three weeks to complete and summer wind conditions - like stagnant air and reverse winds - can compound the issue.

The council also reviewed a pilot complaint filing system that it initiated in May, which allows residents to report odors via a telephone number or online. This system is the City of Milpitas' addition to the hotline already set up by BAAQMD.

In the six months since the program started, the city recieved 30 complaints, 29 of which were submitted online. Of the 30 people who submitted these complaints, 16 identified them as coming from garbage, 10 said they were from sewage, and four did not specify a source. 

Odors in the region usually generate from the open-air biosolid drying beds at the sewage treatment plant and the Newby Island landfill, Phalen said. However, plans to expand the landfill would not impact odors in the area because the surface area exposed to the air would remain the same, she noted.   

conducted by Milpitas Patch, which had around 70 responders, suggested that most people feel negatively about odors in the city. However, only about half of those who responded to the poll said they had been bothered enough to report them. 

But, reporting odors is the best way for government officials to track down odor sources and push forward on solutions, said Phalen.    

If at least five separate complaints are confirmed in one day, standard protocol is for an inspector and supervisor to meet and determine whether it can be classified as a public nuisance, which could lead to further legal action. 

Councilmember Armando Gomez praised government officials and workers from San Jose and Milpitas for their efforts during the Nov. 1 meeting.

"You guys have made more progress in the last year in dealing with the treatment issues than I've seen in the last 10 years," he said, "and that just doesn't happen by itself."

Odor complaints can be made to the City of Milpitas by calling the hotline at 408-586-2787 or visiting the city's complaint website.


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