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Published May 18 2013

Forum editorial: The stink? West Fargo lagoons

West Fargo stinks. OK, not the entire city. It’s the sewage treatment lagoons. The stench rising from the lagoons is a perennial spring insult to eyes, lungs and nose, but this spring, probably because spring was late, the smell wafting from the ponds has been especially noisome.

And in all probability, it’s unnecessary.

When confronted, city officials explain that the lagoons “turn over” in the spring, which in more scientific terms means they shift from anaerobic to aerobic bacterial action. And as if to ameliorate the problem, city officials always say it will stink for only about two weeks.”

Only two weeks? That’s two weeks too long. Two days is too long for a vibrant city, which just happens to have another vibrant city next door, to stink up the air. The stench does not recognize city limits. When the wind is wrong, West Fargo’s atmospheric insult blankets the entire metro area.

Lagoons are a simple, relatively inexpensive and relatively old treatment method. Ideally, lagoons should be in isolated, lightly populated areas. That might have been the situation when West Fargo installed its system years ago. But things have changed. Times have changed. So have the technologies of waste water systems odor control. Another factor: Often lagoon capacity of a growing city is overtaxed, further aggravating the spring odor problem.

A perusal of the literature finds dozens of companies that specialize in odor control for municipal and industrial sewage lagoons. The companies cite example after example of cities that have applied odor control protocols that work. They range from completely covered and contained lagoons to chemical and biological treatments specific to the nature of the wastewater.

It ain’t rocket science. It might cost a few bucks, but what is it worth to end a city’s practice of polluting the air of a beautiful spring morning, not only in your own city but also for the neighbors? What is it worth to be free of the mortification that comes with the answer to the question: What is that smell? Oh that? It’s West Fargo.

West Fargo is a good town. It’s a great place to live, work and raise a family. It’s developing progressively into one of the most dynamic cities in the state. Surely it can do better than stinking up the metro every spring.


Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.