Wednesday, March 15, 2006


I?d like to start by thanking the RWSA for their commitment to composting, and for being open to hearing our comments this evening.

I live in the Marchant mansion. It was built in 1840 and predates the arrival of the sewage treatment plant by well over 100 years. The odors from the sewage treatment plant are something I?ve personally experienced for almost 14 years?other residents on the hilltop for much longer. While other odor-related issues have been dealt with in that time, the composting odors have continued to worsen noticeably over the past 8 years or so. The odors don?t just waft by on a breeze?more typically it?s a blast that hits the hilltop for a minimum of 15 minutes, and quite often lasts an hour or more. This is almost daily occurrence and typically several times a day.

The odors impact our lives on many different levels, only two of which I?ll address this evening. One is from a financial standpoint. We have had a tenant move out within 2 days of arrival due to the fetid compost odor that engulfed our property for a straight 24-hour period. Ethically, I had to break her lease?those are inhumane conditions to expect someone to live under. Prospective tenants tend to view apartments in the early evening, around dinnertime, which is when the fecal odor is usually at its worst. The odor has become so bad, there?s no way that it can explained to prospective tenants as an occasional thing. This is affecting our ability to earn rental income. I honestly don?t know if any of my current tenants can stick it out another year under these conditions, and who could blame them? As the population of the county increases, so will the amount of biosolids that will be composted. The resulting odors will render this hilltop uninhabitable.

On a personal, standard of living level, this situation is harmful and demoralizing. When the odors last for more than 10 minutes, they fill the inside of our house and cause headaches, burning eyes and nausea. It?s the first thing that greets us when we come home from work. We can?t have barbecues? we have a yard, yet it can?t be enjoyed.. We can?t keep our windows open for more than a brief period of time. We?ve frequently been awakened in the middle of the night by the smell.

While composting biosolids is a great idea from an environmental standpoint, the RWSA needs to be sensitive to the fact that they are composting fecal matter next to a residential neighborhood and find an appropriate solution?preferably enclosing the composting area and installing the proper filtration. Thank you.

Comments by Victoria Dunham delivered at Woolen Mills Neighborhood Association Meeting with Bob Wichser, Ph.D., P.E., DEE, Director of Water & Wastewater Operations at Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority. Mr Wichser came to hear neighbors' concerns over smells from the composting facility. Charlottesville Vice-Mayor Kevin Lynch and neighbors from the Belmont/Carlton neighborhood also attended.

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