Crockett: Residents urged to protect themselves against hydrogen sulfide from treatment plant

CROCKETT — County health officials continue to urge residents who live near a wastewater treatment plant to take precautions after tests early this week continued to show elevated levels of hydrogen sulfide nearby.

After an ongoing operational issue at the Crockett Wastewater Treatment Plant, 1801 Dowrelio Drive, led to complaints from residents about vile odors, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District carried out tests that found levels of the gas strong enough to affect the health of those exposed to it for long periods.

On Tuesday, a team with the department’s hazardous materials division found a one-hour reading of .045 parts per million near Port and Ceres streets, just east of Interstate 80 near the plant, surpassing the district’s own one-hour average reading Friday of .036 parts per million near the plant. The initial test led the county’s health department to issue an advisory, followed by an update Wednesday.

Division staff made 40 indoor air filters available to nearby John Swett High and Carquinez Middle schools, where hazmat division staff’s tests Tuesday found one-hour average readings of .0031 and .0015 parts per million, respectively.

Readings are expected to fluctuate based on closeness to the plant and weather conditions. However, residents who experience either persistent or serious conditions due to exposure to hydrogen sulfide — an odor often compared to rotten eggs or sewage — were urged to seek medical care or avoid the area entirely.

County health staff noted that the plant processes sewage from the community and the C&H Sugar refinery, which owns the property and operates the refinery through a contractor. In a statement Wednesday, a C&H Sugar vice president said that the contractor, Inframark, was going to complete cleaning more than 1,300 air diffusers in one of the plant’s three treatment reactors Wednesday morning, with the other reactors due to follow after.

New and larger motors will be added to upgrade blowers meant to help diffuser aeration, and additional input is due from a third-party expert, the company said. “Inframark expects the odor to cease within seven to 10 days as microorganisms have time to digest. Residents should notice odors dissipating sooner,” according to the statement.

The Crockett Improvement Association will hold a public meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday to discuss the plant’s issues at Crockett Community Center, 850 Pomona Ave. Staff members with the air-quality district met to discuss the plant Wednesday evening, and a spokeswoman said the additional district monitoring Wednesday found “an exceedance of the 1-hour (hydrogen sulfide) standard near the fence line of the property.”

The spokeswoman also said inspectors have been on site since the plant’s issues began a few weeks ago, with staff continuing to monitor this week, and added that the district has so far issued “16 notices of violation for public nuisance. We are continuing to investigate so any potential fines will be determined once the investigation has concluded.”

Staff writer Jason Green contributed to this report. Contact George Kelly at 408-859-5180. 

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Author: George Kelly