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Spring is in the air, and it stinks

The West Fargo lagoons, seen here in an April 11 aerial photo, have been blamed for some of the bad odor in West Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

WEST FARGO - Spring is in the air, but it might not be the sweet scent of blossoming flowers that tickles your nostrils.

Sewage lagoons in West Fargo have left a pungent odor in the breeze, and it's hard to miss around town when the wind blows just right.

Some residents in Fargo have also reported a smell wafting around the city. The source of that remains a mystery, but it's possible it's a lingering effect from West Fargo's lagoons.

West Fargo Public Works Director Barry Johnson said the stench from the lagoons is, unfortunately, "the nature of the beast."

The wastewater ponds - located north of 12th Avenue North and west of the city's airport - naturally reek at the onset of spring.

The difference this year is the return of colder conditions after a couple weeks of seasonal warm-up, Johnson said.

"When the ice comes off, the colder water starts flipping over, and that's how stabilization ponds work," Johnson said. "In a normal spring, (the smell) will usually last two weeks - but this is not a normal spring. ... Cold weather and snow do not help."

Once the temperatures rise and the sun shines more consistently, the odor should fade, Johnson said.

In Fargo, the exact origin of a similar odor, for now, is unknown.

Terry Ludlum, Fargo's solid waste utility manager, said the source is not the city landfill, off 45th Street North and Seventh Avenue.

Since last fall, when residents complained of a lingering stench from the landfill, Fargo officials added extra staff and equipment to prevent that from happening again.

Among the upgrades were daily odor checks around the perimeter of the dump, Ludlum said.

But findings in recent days have been "barely measurable," indicating there isn't an issue with any stink coming from the landfill, Ludlum said.

Nonetheless, Ludlum encouraged residents to call the city's Solid Waste Department at (701) 241-1449 if they smell anything funky.

"If people have complaints, we'd like to know about it," he said. "We're not turning a blind eye to anything."

Since the fall, Ludlum said the city has added a consulting firm for the daily checks, another engineering firm to work with wastewater collection lines at the landfill and another nine wells to extract methane from the dump. Crews also repaired wells that had been underperforming.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541