As of Monday morning, Hollister public works officials were still trying to narrow down the precise cause of odor issues that arose last week throughout the city.
City residents for several years have gone through periods with strong odors coming from the industrial wastewater plant when used by the San Benito Foods cannery for three months in the summer. This year, odors arose for several days starting around Aug. 9 and reached much of the city at times throughout that weekend, but city officials at the time said there were no abnormalities in readings from the waste plant and they were unsure why the odor was so strong.
On Monday morning, head public works official Mike Chambless told San Benito Live said he was close to figuring out the problem. He mentioned how a consultant, Veolia, had been out today doing “smell tests.”
“I don’t know if there’s a better way of putting it,” Chambless said.
Chambless said he had been poring through data for the past several days to figure it out, adding how he worked seven hours on it Friday, six hours Sunday, and thought he needed another five hours or so to figure it out.
Chambless explained how the city generally needs to make sure oxygen levels are increased in the industrial pond on the west side to prevent odor issues.
Those odors are historically caused by tomato waste that travels from San Benito Foods in downtown Hollister in a storm drain to the industrial pond, which is solely used for the cannery’s operations. The cannery sends more than two million gallons of water each day through the line, according to a city social media post on the odor issue.
The biological process at the treatment pond involves bugs eating the solids, and they need a lot of oxygen to do so. The higher the pH levels, the better when it comes to the odors. Chambless has said those readings have been normal, leaving officials stumped to this point.
Mayor Ignacio Velazquez has told San Benito Live that the difference with the odor issues this summer is that he didn’t believe it was coming directly from the industrial waste pond but, rather, the storm drains.
City officials over three years ago opted for a sludge removal process to curtail the seemingly annual summer smell from the industrial pond. The smell didn’t arise last summer before this year’s issues.