For several months now there has been something rotten smelling in Murfreesboro. Coming from the area northeast of town, the city has been suffering from concentrated pockets of smell for the last several months, with complaints reaching from Smyrna to Church Street. Both the Murfreesboro Water Resource Department and Middle Point Landfill have been doing their best to get the smell out of the air.
What Causes the Smell
Whether the rotten eggs smell is coming from old water pipes or rotting garbage, it is caused by hydrogen sulfide. According to Darren Gore, Director Murfreesboro Water Resources Department, about 10% of the population can smell hydrogen sulfide even when the gas is 0.01 parts per million. According to health.ny.gov, “Landfill gases are produced when bacteria break down organic waste. The amount of these gases depends on the type of waste present in the landfill, the age of the landfill, oxygen content, the amount of moisture, and temperature. For example, gas production will increase if the temperature or moisture content increases.” A large producer of hydrogen sulfide is construction and demolition waste. Drywall is especially prone to create the gas.
Exposure can cause coughing; irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat; headache; nausea; and breathing difficulties. These effects usually go away once the exposure is stopped. However, over time the gas can cause sleeping issues, weight loss, and exacerbation of asthma. According to measurements taken in Murfreesboro, the amount of gas is minimal.
Water Resources Working to Contain the Gas
Murfreesboro Water Resources Department has not ignored the problem. They have been working since the first reports to discover the cycle, pinpoint the location, and treat the problem, not just cover the smell.
According to Gore, they have gone through all three steps. A pumping station can get stagnant overnight until it empties in the morning as water is used. Or dry weather can settle solids, which are flushed by a first rain. The department can pinpoint locations where gas is escaping, such as open manholes or broken vent pipes, then the cause can be addressed. One problem with an old pumping station on Compton Road was discovered and a solution was found.
“Odor patrols” have monitored the locations reporting the strongest smells. These patrols found that escaping gas is minimal. While they have fixed the issue for the moment, the old pumping station where the leak was found is soon to be replaced. Its replacement is part of a long-term plan to take all of the flows into a regional pumping station set to replace three aged ones.
In the meantime, the city is using an annihilator and misting around older pumping stations.
Controlling Migration of Gas at the Landfill
As garbage rots, it creates gases. Aware of this, wells are installed throughout the landfill and then capped off to direct the gas to specific outdoor locations where it is vented or burned off. However, older landfills don’t always have these vents. And if the soil is moved around, sometimes pockets of gas can be released.
According to the Midpoint website, at the Rutherford County site, a “…management system collects gas through a series of pipes and more than 100 gas wells. We then go above and beyond our regulatory requirements and actually put the gas to good use as an energy resource. It is used to generate electricity—enough to meet the needs of more than 2,200 households annually. The system is regularly monitored to prevent odors and gas migration.”
Like the Water Department, Mid Point Landfill staff is looking into the issue. General Manager Jeremy Jernigan noted that the company appreciates the public’s reports of smell locations. According to a press release, ten of 60 reports could be attributable to landfill operations. These have been dealt with.
Both entities will continue to work towards riding the city of the noxious smell.