Sewage smell on Raquette River Drive is being addressed

TUPPER LAKE – An end to foul sewer odors might be in the works for Raquette River Drive residents.

After resident Fred Lamere brought the problem to the attention of the Tupper Lake town board during its last meeting, a discussion began between town Supervisor Patti Littlefield and Mark Kestner, president of Mark L. Kestner PE Consulting Engineer of Troy.

That company is a subsequent company to Kestner Engineers, which designed sewer District 5, where Raquette River Drive is, in 1999.

“I spoke with Patti on Monday,” Kestner said. “I told her the first thing to do is get a good base map of all the facilities that are in the area.”

Kestner said things have been constructed since 1999 that now tie into the Raquette River Drive system. Kestner Engineers has maps for that district but not for District 23, which was designed by another firm, Architectural and Engineering Design Associates of Plattsburgh.

“Once we get the other maps, we can start to identify things that we want to look at, like points of discharge from pumps,” Kestner said. “You’d also talk to the people about where they live along the route, what time of the year or the day these things happen, that kind of stuff. You kind of narrow it down.”

Other factors are also considered, like whether the number of people using the district has increased and the history of the maintenance on the equipment. But it all starts with the map.

“If you start that without a good map, then you’re shooting yourself in the foot,” Kestner said. “The whole idea is to know what is where, and start from there.”

Andy Abdallah, president of Architectural and Engineering Design Associates, said a lot of the sewer infrastructure has changed in that area in the last 15 years.

“The Raquette River District was established in approximately 1999, that’s when all those homes were connected to the municipal sewers,” Abdallah said. “In 2005 or 2006, District 23 was created and constructed, and that connected to the sewers along Route 30, so that was another change. In the same time frame, around 2005, the (Wild Center) museum was constructed, and the museum was connected to the sewer at the point at the intersection of Raquette River Drive and Route 30. We also replaced the collector sewers that go down to the High Street pump station.”

Abdallah agreed that pinpointing an odor problem is one of the most difficult tasks in the wastewater industry. In 2009 Abdallah wrote a letter to the town board offering some recommendations that were based on his evaluation of the situation at that time.

“This odor problem has been around for awhile,” Abdallah said. “From the information I have, it’s been going back to 2000, so it’s not a new issue. We gave the town some recommendations to approach this problem but they never took action on it. Someone really needs to look at that whole area to find out what’s going on.”

Tracing the source of the odor is the first step in resolving the issue.

“Everyone who seems to be having an issue with these odors is at the bottom of Raquette River Drive, basically the intersection of (state routes) 3 and 30,” Abdallah said. “There may be other people having problems, but they just haven’t talked about it.”

Sewer odor problems can be caused by a number of factors and are typically called sewer gas. That term is a catch-all for odors that emanate from a sewer, but the cause of the odor can vary.

“It’s going to be a mix of gases,” Abdallah said. “Probably the worst one is hydrogen sulfide. When you start getting that you’re really getting strong odors that people typically don’t like. That’s that rotten egg smell. It’s almost never the same, other than the fact that it’s sewage and it smells.”

Contact Shaun Kittle at 518-891-2600 ext. 25 or skittle@adirondackdailyenterprise.com.