Foul smell in Crockett to linger another 10 days

A foul stench that has plagued Crockett for some time could linger for at least another week, officials said.

The smell is a result of elevated levels of hydrogen sulfide coming from the Crockett Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Recent air monitoring data from the county's Hazardous Materials Program show concentrations of the chemical that can cause headaches, nausea and irritated eyes over long periods.

County health officials said in a statement Wednesday they haven't detected levels of hydrogen sulfide in Crockett's air that would be considered immediately dangerous to public health.

Residents have been complaining for months about the odor with it getting worse over time. Bay Area Air Quality District said they've responded to 300 public complaints because of the odor. 

The higher levels of hydrogen sulfide stem from a weeks-long operational issue at the wastewater treatment plant at 1801 Dowrelio Road, which processes sewage from the community and wastewater from the C&H Sugar refinery. C&H owns the property and operates the facility through contractor Inframark.

Inframark said in a statement Wednesday it will complete cleaning of more than 1,300 air diffusers in one of three wastewater treatment reactors by the end of Wednesday. The diffusers provide oxygen needed by microorganisms in the wastewater that break down sewage.

The reactor will be placed back into operation Wednesday afternoon with these optimized diffusers and additional microorganisms. The air diffusers in the other two wastewater treatment reactors will be cleaned next.

Inframark is also upgrading the blowers that supply oxygen to the diffusers with new, larger motors to add reliability and further increase aeration.

Inframark said it expects the odor to cease within seven to 10 days as microorganisms have time to digest. Residents should notice odors dissipating sooner.

The county recommends people experiencing minor symptoms to stay indoors with windows and doors closed. People experiencing serious or persistent symptoms should contact their health provider.

Crockett, sometimes referred to as ‘Sugar Town’ has smelled anything but sweet. 

"It stinks. People don't want to come out in it," said one resident. "This is not healthy for any of us," said another. "Health department says don't breathe it. It's toxic," said yet another.

Another problem is it's bad for business. "It stinks. People don't want to come out in it. I'm losing business. My bartenders don't want to be here," said  Matthew Easterling, owner of Toots Tavern.

Lisa Forry's Sugar City Pet Supply and her exotic birds are caught up in it. "I worry about my elderly customers. I care about people not wanting to come down in the town to shop at my store because of the smell. When is my headache gonna go away and are my birds gonna be safe?" said Forry.

Heat and still air make everything worse. "When it was 107 degrees, you couldn't even come outside in Crockett. It was awful." said Club Tac Bar & Grill owner Cindy Castro.

How much more stink will Crockett have to bear? "I've heard, 7 to 13 days, as of yesterday. That's what they told me," said Easterling.