What’s the Bryce St. Stink About?

by Jennifer Vickers & Lorraine Cherry

After at least three decades of concern about the Bryce Street Chemical Feed Station, located just west of the intersection of West TC Jester and West 11th Street, the last three years have brought significant progress in understand and addressing the cause of the stench emanating from the City facility.  Now Timbergrove residents may soon be able to breath easy around the wastewater treatment facility.

Wastewater reaching the Bryce St facility undergoes two treatment processes: the primary treatment allows solids to settle out of the water.  In the secondary treatment, the separated biological solids are broken down with pathogens to create biomass, also known as sludge.  This process generates hydrogen sulfide (H2S), a colorless gas with the characteristic foul smell of rotten eggs.   The smelly gas collects in the air in the sewage transfer pipe that carries the sludge to the final treatment center in east Houston.

The current problem stems from a significantly undersized air scrubber originally installed on this site to remove H2S from the air in the sewage pipe. City employees have admitted that the current system had been inadequate from the beginning, leading to the continuing odor problem the surrounding neighborhood has experienced for many years.

In spring of 2013,  Public Works and engineering added the plastic sheeting that now wraps the fence surrounding the station.  Because H2S is heavier than the ambient air, this barrier helps to trap the stench within the boundaries of the facility.  Perhaps more impactful, the operational procedures at the facility have been altered to allow for discharge of sludge seven days a week, instead of the previous five.

Even better: planned updates for construction of two new biological odor control treatment systems and fans, chemical feed systems, and three new chemical storage tanks were finalized and funded and a contractor was selected over the summer.  This is behind the original schedule for the project which estimated construction would start in the first quarter of 2015, but is still welcome news for the residents whose back yards and strolls and bike rides along the bayou are negatively impacted but the stench emanating from the facility.

What’s next for this project? Join us Tuesday, January 12th at 7:00 PM when a representative from City of Houston Public Works and Engineering will update TMCC on project progress during our general meeting.