Dealing with the smell of local sewage
November 10, 2016 2:31 PM   Subscribe

I've recently moved into a house about half a mile from a sewage treatment plant; I'll be there for at least a year. During certain times of day, our neighborhood smells like sewage and/or processed sewage. The smell doesn't penetrate indoors, but it makes the porch and yard unpleasant. What can I do about this? The current leading candidates are: paths and flowerbeds made of cedar chips, and aromatic (evergreen) shrubs. Does anyone have any experience with this, or advice on dealing with outdoor smells?
posted by 4th number to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Sensory adaptation or 'nose-blindness' will likely kick in, at least for yourself and cohabitants.

“It’s actually a very robust phenomenon,” she says. “It’s why people go on vacation and come back and say, ‘Oh, it’s so musty in here — I’d better open some windows!’” Maybe your house is musty — but according to Dalton, it’s also possible that that’s what your house always smells like, but you just don’t usually notice it.
posted by fairmettle at 2:41 PM on November 10, 2016 [4 favorites]

I'm aware of that, but our house is occupied by folks who want to bring guests around and maybe even make a good impression on them. I'm interested in mitigation strategies: things that will make it more pleasant for anyone to be on our porch, or walking from our driveway to our house, or playing in the backyard with the dog.
posted by 4th number at 2:47 PM on November 10, 2016

We have this where I am, but it's usually animal manure (farming area). So dealing is a combination of things

- timing! making sure you're at least optimizing for less smelly times when you're outdoors to the best of your ability
- airflow - depending where the plant is, having subtle (or not so subtle) fans or other air movement devices pushing air towards the smell and bringing air from away from it
- little fires depending what the weather is like near you. aromatic in their own right. Even stuff like incense if places right will help the whole place form a "vibe" perspective. Same with those little tiki torches for nighttime

You could also go further with this and enclose the porch if that's an option.

I also agree with your other strategies. Cedar chips, evergreens, flowerbeds in the spring and summer months.
posted by jessamyn at 2:54 PM on November 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

Citronella torches or candles?
Has the neighborhood spoken to the plant managers about this? Maybe they can shift some of their smellier processing to night time or have some other mitigation options?
posted by quince at 2:58 PM on November 10, 2016

Can you have outdoor fires or firepits/places in your jurisdiction? A small fire on days when you're expecting guests might help. Even some smoked hickory chips burning very low in a small bbq grill might be enough to mitigate the funk.

I grew up just a few blocks from the largest wastewater treatment facility in the world. If my experience is anything to go by, residents and regular visitors grow numb to the smell (as mentioned above). Try not to have visitors during the worst parts of the day. Different weather/wind patterns in different seasons will affect how bad it is. It will likely be less bad - almost not even noticeable - in the cold weather and worse in the humidity/heat. IME, smells seemed to get worse as the day wore on, so maybe aim for scheduling outdoor activities earlier?
posted by SuperSquirrel at 3:17 PM on November 10, 2016 [1 favorite]

There is a weather app a cyclist friend uses to track wind direction and speed. I will post the link in this thread when I get it from them.
posted by mecran01 at 3:19 PM on November 10, 2016

I spend a lot of time in Milpitas, which is the butt of many cruel jokes due to close upwind locations of the San Jose Water Pollution Control Plant, the Zanker Sanitary Landfill, and the Dixon Landing Sanitary Landfill. One always knows which way the wind blows in Milpitas.

Almost always, anyway. Trachelospermum jasminoides, Star or Confederate Jasmine has been widely and thickly planted around public and commercial buildings. It's evergreen, and blooms from June through September, if you manage it properly, and a wall or trellis of it can banish the foulest effluvium of 1.3 million asses.

Some honeysuckle varieties bloom in the spring before the jasmine, and are famously fragrant. I haven't seen them as often as I have seen the jasmine.
posted by the Real Dan at 3:26 PM on November 10, 2016 [6 favorites]

the Real Dan, does that Jasmine smell nice when it's not blooming?
posted by 4th number at 8:02 AM on November 11, 2016

I haven't noticed any odor from T. jasminoides when it's not blooming.
posted by the Real Dan at 12:39 AM on November 13, 2016

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