Swickard: The less than sweet smell of sewage

Commentary by Michael Swickard, Ph.D. - Here is an easy question. Everyone who wants to live next to a sewage plant, raise your hand. Odd, no one raised their hand. It was just as I thought; no one wants to live next to a sewage plant. Now this is not a visual issue, a sewage treatment plant does not look all that bad. And, at times there is no untoward smell. But in my experience it is not if the air will turn into a nasty mist of human waste, it is just when.  In an unscientific poll where I talked to fellow coffee drinkers at the coffee shop, I found everyone wants the smell somewhere else. Consider: everyone wants, or rather, needs to use their toilet, yet many do not want the consequences. Everyone wants the stink to be someone else’s problem. Now I know that you might be eating right now so I will not go more into detail, but it is important to know that at a sewage plant there is the less than sweet smell of sewage. Often the smell is rank and quite offensive. And that is the conflict. It may not be every day, but there will be days with a sewage plant where no one wants it in their backyard. There is a term for this behavior, NIMBY: not in my back yard. Well, that is where the consequences of one person’s action become a problem for another person. Often the NIMBY folks are resisting power transmission lines, roads and nuclear power plants.  But, a sewage plant, whew, that is really a NIMBY moment. I guess those who work this field of sewage treatment may come home smelling like low tide in the swamp. Someone must do it or it will not get done. They may say it is the smell of money, but we know better. Read column



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