26 April 2022,

The South Wastewater Treatment Plant in Brownsville added odor control measures to its facility, removing the compound primarily responsible for the odors associated with wastewater. Learn more about the process here.

Directed, cinematography, 2D/3D graphic design & post by Jorge De La Colina
Shot on RED and DJI

Whether it be finding other water sources to ensure an ample drinking water supply or coming up with ways to clean out Brownsville’s resacas, the Brownsville Public Utilities Board prides itself in finding solutions to whatever problem it may face. So, when BPUB was asked to come up with a way to reduce the odors from the South Wastewater Treatment Plant on East Avenue, we found a

The new odor control system at the South Wastewater Treatment Plant is a major improvement for people who live in the area.

Let’s take a closer look at what was done and how it works. The gas primarily responsible for these odors is hydrogen sulfide, and the turbulence created by the inflow of wastewater helps disperse that hydrogen sulfide, and in turn the odor, out into the open air.

To mitigate this problem the first major step was to place covers over wastewater tanks and channels where the wastewater is churning the most.

The covers capture the gas before it is released into the open. Seeing how the South Plant looked before these covers were installed, you can get an idea of how much less hydrogen sulfide is being released into the air.

Approximately 200 covers were installed, that’s a total of 7,000 square feet. While those covers prevent the gas from being released, that hydrogen sulfide still needs somewhere to go. That’s when we allow Mother Nature to step in and do her job. About 400 linear feet of ductwork installed within the covered tanks and channels blows the gas through a biological tower.

Inside the structure are microorganisms that love to feed on hydrogen sulfide. By the time those microorganisms do their job, 99% of the hydrogen sulfide has been removed, along with the odors associated with a wastewater treatment plant.

This improvement project was a major investment into the community by BPUB, with project costs reaching $2.1 million. This project was done with a great deal of help and support from the city of Brownsville, notably from the commissioner of this area, Ricardo Longoria Jr., who wanted to make sure that the needs of his constituents were being met.

I’ve been living here in the neighborhood since 1973 and the plant has been around since 1955. Every time that you came to our neighborhood, when you would drive down, you would always get the smell of raw sewage when it was coming in.

So, I’ve been in office now since 2003, that means about 13 years. I got together with our CEO of PUB, Mr. John Bruziak, and a couple of members from the board, since back then, and we’ve tried several things to be able to get- to control the scent- to control the odor. It wasn’t until about 2 years ago that we tasked Ambiotech Engineering to come up with a plan.

It’s basically what you see behind me right now. This is an odor control system that’s been set in, and it’s also in our Robindale Plant here in Brownsville. This facility can work up to 12.7 million gallons a day. Right now it works at about 5.6, so we’re not even halfway. This is something that’s been a longtime coming. We were finally able to get together and come up with a scientific solution that would take care of the problem. That’s something that has been a longtime coming to this neighborhood. Both the City of Brownsville, and Brownsville PUB are very proud that we’ve finally been able to accomplish for the people and the citizens of Brownsville.

And now that the work is complete, Commissioner Longoria says that the difference is clear.

Everybody stands to benefit, everybody stands to win. The City of Brownsville owns 81 acres across the street. As you look at the future of Brownsville we’re always ahead- we’re always planning 10, 15, 20 years ahead. As you look into the future you see a possibility of maybe the university expanding here into the neighborhood. And of course by us having taken care of this problem right now, you start preparing for the future. You start making it a more viable community. You start making more- viable projects would be able to come into the area. So, preparation is key. Having done this right now prepares for future commissions, future boards, to be able to give them that accessibility to our area, making it more viable.

As a municipally owned utility, BPUB always puts the needs of its customers first, and this project shows the importance of having a utility motivated toward meeting customer requests as well as one that’s here to work alongside the city to accomplish that goal.

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