Buying a house near sewage treatment plant

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Buying a house near sewage treatment plant

Postby moneywise3 » Fri Dec 31, 2010 9:41 pm

We are considering buying a house (primary residence) that is three quarters of a mile from a sewage treatment plant. We like the community and the features in the house. There are other houses closer to the plant than this one. Is this something we should totally avoid? Does a sewage plant release any harmful gases (that may be odorless)? Thanks in advance for any insight.
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Postby scpo » Fri Dec 31, 2010 9:48 pm

A big no. No matter what the price.
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Postby livesoft » Fri Dec 31, 2010 9:54 pm

Somebody buys those houses, but it wouldn't be me. There are two treatment plants a few miles from us. If you drive through those neighborhoods on warm summer days, you can smell them. I don't think any of the gases are noxious though. Anyways, they don't smell any worse than the Colorado Front Range on a warm winter day when the ground & manure warms up.

Since many people would not buy those houses, the prices have to be lower than similar homes further from the treatment plants. Just remember, they will be lower when it comes time to sell as well. They may not increase as much in price as better located homes.
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Re: Buying a house near sewage treatment plant

Postby fsrph » Fri Dec 31, 2010 9:57 pm

moneywise3 wrote:We are considering buying a house (primary residence) that is three quarters of a mile from a sewage treatment plant. We like the community and the features in the house. There are other houses closer to the plant than this one. Is this something we should totally avoid? Does a sewage plant release any harmful gases (that may be odorless)? Thanks in advance for any insight.


When we were interested in a Florida property the buyers agent strongly recommended to stay away from the local sewage treatment plant. He said if often emits an odor which affects the entire neighborhood. Is 3/4 of a mile far enough? I'm not sure, but why risk it. I also noticed that houses near the treatment plant sell for less. So, you may be able to buy it cheaper but when/if you sell you are going to get less too.

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Postby Adrian Nenu » Fri Dec 31, 2010 10:07 pm

There is a sewage treatment plant next (about 300 yds. away) to the jail where I work. The worst smell is from the chemicals used to neutralize the waste. Always check the neighborhood carefully before buying a house and avoid industrialized areas, highways and RR tracks. Resale value of such properties is very poor when you try to unload them.

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Postby stratton » Fri Dec 31, 2010 10:11 pm

Only if it's on the prevailing upwind side. :cry:

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Postby Imperabo » Fri Dec 31, 2010 10:44 pm

I recall years ago I was driving through Huntington Beach Ca, with a friend. He knew the area well, while I was a recent transplant. As we entered an area with an unpleasant smell and read a sign indicating a sewage treatment plant, he said, "that smell isn't actually what you'd think. It's really just raw sewage." Still strikes me as one of the funniest things I've ever heard, and I can't explain why.
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Postby retcaveman » Fri Dec 31, 2010 10:49 pm

I'd be concerned about whether the groundwater might be contanimated, especially if you have well water, even if it's a municipal well.

Good luck.
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Postby fishnskiguy » Fri Dec 31, 2010 11:00 pm

The Vail Ritz-Carlton Hotel is 300 yards from the town of Vail waste treatment plant. I bike by the plant almost every other day. On one out of five days there is an odor detectable from 50 feet away, Otherwise, nada.

Talk to the neighbors, but Jeez, 3/4 miles is a looooong way.

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Postby norookie » Fri Dec 31, 2010 11:02 pm

:D -Double post till I get this LT fixed. :evil: :evil:
Last edited by norookie on Fri Dec 31, 2010 11:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby norookie » Fri Dec 31, 2010 11:02 pm

:D When I lived in AZ there was the only N flowing body of water :D Flowing into Tucson from MEX. I forget the name, quite odd. Right next was a treatment plant. The state had a few correctional institutions nearby. As well as a park where they stocked it w/ bass/trout. For fishing. In hindsight, it was probably to see if they lived or people got sick. Canary in the coal mine IYKWIM. Just sayin......there was also the stench. Colorado river and private wells supplied the "good" water.
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Postby schellhase » Fri Dec 31, 2010 11:52 pm

I would suggest walking the neighborhood and talking to the neighbors. Ask them about the impact if the treatment plant and the oder. I used to work at a treatment plant and when the process is being managed correctly there is very little oder. However, when the process doesn't work correctly it can be smelly.
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Postby moneywise3 » Sat Jan 01, 2011 11:07 am

Thanks to all for insightful thoughts
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Postby scubadiver » Sat Jan 01, 2011 11:28 am

I probably would not buy the house, but if you do, make sure your price is discounted relative to similar homes further from the treatment facility.

If the house is not on public water / sewer, i.e. you have a well, I absolutely would not buy the house. In a manner of speaking, you are paying the "price" for being near a public sewer treatment facility, but getting none of the benefit. Worse yet, your well water could potentially be contaminated and even if it's not currently contaminated (a simple test will tell) you will always carry the risk that something may occur in the future to cause this.
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Postby BigFoot48 » Sat Jan 01, 2011 11:40 am

If you are questioning the wisdom of buying, so will your future buyers! That said, its quite a distance away, and if the house was really desirable otherwise I would just talk to a whole bunch of neighbors on the issue, recognizing that they might downplay it.

I worked at a high-end $1M+ community in Florida that had its own treatment plant. It emitted no odors, but one day I was showing some CPAs around and we were walking around the plant and as we walked by the input pipe, which was discharging, I pointed out what it was and about in unison they both jumped back about a foot. It was quite amusing.
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Postby TRC » Sat Jan 01, 2011 5:34 pm

Location Location Location.

If it's a potential red flag for you, it's going to be a potential red flag for the person you want to sell your house to down the road.
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Postby likegarden » Sat Jan 01, 2011 8:28 pm

If the prevailing wind comes from the plant to your house, then it might be questionable. I bought our present house knowing that it is situated 1/2 mile west from an Expressway, and the prevailing winds come from the west to the east, so we do not have to breathe in car gases. Noise is not bad either.
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Postby Cherokee8215 » Sat Jan 01, 2011 9:38 pm

I don't think 3/4 of a mile would really be an issue. There are hundreds of homes located that distance from my local treatment plant, and I haven't noticed any difference in price or lagging on the market for them. The smell doesn't seem to be an issue unless you're within 1/4 mile of it, and even then it's not constant.

Even if the smell is a factor, any house will sell readily at a certain price. My friends got a great deal on a house located 50' away from active railroad tracks. Sure, the noise is an issue, but they got a house of a size they otherwise would not have been able to afford. If a seller thinks this home is of equal value to one nowhere near railroad tracks, then they will have much difficulty selling though.
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Postby Billy Pilgrim » Sun Jan 02, 2011 3:26 am

Absolutely not.
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Postby epilnk » Sun Jan 02, 2011 4:26 am

I wonder if it matters how the plant is managed. I got to tour our local wastewater treatment plant for an environmental health class a couple of years ago. There was very little chemical usage, it was a mostly biological operation. I was surprised by how little odor was detectable from the open fermentation pits, even when crossing the walkways above them. The worst smell was on one side of the property - it was adjacent to a horse boarding facility, so there was a noticeable horse odor on that side. This plant isn't located in a residential area, though - the nearest house may well be mine, maybe 1.5 miles away.

I'd consider water source to be a bigger issue than air quality, though I can't imagine you'd have a well that close to a waste treatment plant. You don't want to be taking the water immediately downstream from such a plant, even at some distance. Some chemicals, including many pharmaceuticals, cannot be broken down by treatment plants.
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Re: Buying a house near sewage treatment plant

Postby Valuethinker » Sun Jan 02, 2011 10:47 am

moneywise3 wrote:We are considering buying a house (primary residence) that is three quarters of a mile from a sewage treatment plant. We like the community and the features in the house. There are other houses closer to the plant than this one. Is this something we should totally avoid? Does a sewage plant release any harmful gases (that may be odorless)? Thanks in advance for any insight.


It's generally bad practice to buy a home with an unfixable locational problem.

Some sewage plants do not smell. But you would have to convince other buyers of that. It makes you less liquid. In a down market, very hard to sell (buyers can always afford someplace better) or even impossible. In an up market, harder to sell.

Prevailing wind arguments usually won't cut it with buyers. Note existing homeowners may well not be honest with you.

Check to see if there have been any lawsuits or raised in Town Council meetings?
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Postby kenschmidt » Sun Jan 02, 2011 2:45 pm

I am not sure I understand the water source concerns with being near a waste treatment plant.

Modern wastewater treatment plants output potable (clean but not drinkable) water and solids. The potable water typically goes into a local stream or river and the solids are trucked off site and reused. The sewage does not just go into the ground near the treatment plant.

If anything, you should be more concerned with there not being a wastewater treatment plant near your well - as that likely means septic systems - sometimes failing or overloaded.
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Postby scubadiver » Sun Jan 02, 2011 3:32 pm

kenschmidt wrote:If anything, you should be more concerned with there not being a wastewater treatment plant near your well - as that likely means septic systems - sometimes failing or overloaded.


You are correct in that if your neighbor has a well / septic system then your well is open to risks from failures in their septic system. Similarly though, the waste treatment facility is literally a septic system for thousands of neighbors. Although it does not by design release waste into the environment, accidents do happen.

I'm not sure if the data exists to quantify these risks, but if the house did have a well, it would just be one more "DO NOT BUY" flag.
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Postby chaz » Sun Jan 02, 2011 3:59 pm

Avoid living in a scary location.
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Postby justkb » Mon Jan 03, 2011 11:09 am

I finally have something relevant to add to a Boglehead discussion! I've been employed at a wastewater treatment facility for almost 18 years. There are a few things to investigate before purchasing a property nearby. First and foremost, ASK QUESTIONS! The following are questions the superintendent will answer for you:
1 - What type of odor control is used, such as activated carbon scrubbing systems, primary clarifier covers, sludge thickener covers. If he says "None", end the conversation and look for a new location.
2. What is done with solids handling? This is a major source of odors. If they treat solids onsite, there will be odor issues. If they send their solids to an outside facility, they will be greatly reduced.
3. What type of chemical is used in pretreatment? If hypochlorite solution of ferric chloride is added at the local pumping stations, the incoming odors will be greatly reduced.

If your local facility actively works to address these concerns, you may experience odors once in awhile, but only on days of "low ceilings," such as high humidity days. Those days, the air becomes rather saturated with moisture, and the evaporated wastewater (and released odors) have no place to go, so they hover near ground-level.

Hope this helps!

Ken
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Postby rlp2451 » Mon Jan 03, 2011 1:28 pm

The local community took (by eminent domain) 10 acres from our farm about 30 years ago to build a sewage treatment facility. i will not go into the process they used to steal the land from us, but since it was built, we have not ever - ever - smelled anything. My brother lives within sight of the facility and there are other homes within a few hundred yards, and unless you saw the sign leading to it you'd never know it was there.

3/4 of a mile should pose no problem unless they aren't doing it right.
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Postby moneywise3 » Tue Jan 04, 2011 4:25 pm

Thanks again for all the replies.
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Postby CAP » Thu Jan 06, 2011 10:16 am

No, I would not consider buying near a treatment plant no matter what the price of the house nor lack of odor. I agree Location, Location which is important to me. Good luck on your decision.
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Re: Buying a house near sewage treatment plant

Postby 1530jesup » Thu Jan 06, 2011 10:56 am

moneywise3 wrote:We are considering buying a house (primary residence) that is three quarters of a mile from a sewage treatment plant. We like the community and the features in the house. There are other houses closer to the plant than this one. Is this something we should totally avoid? Does a sewage plant release any harmful gases (that may be odorless)? Thanks in advance for any insight.


we bought in a new community next to a treatment plant and the first year or two there were times that is was really unpleasant to be outside. an open field and a line of trees separate my home from the plant. after an organized protest, the plant was upgraded to the point where there are no issues whatsoever. in fact I have biked and my son jogs around the plant.

a few miles away is another facility that for whatever reason does not have the same capabilities or upgrades and for several years the homes in that area periodically suffer from odors drifting across their property. as to odorless gas that may be harmful, I have no clue.

so, it all depends. have the homes been there for awhile? any local newspaper articles about the plant in the past year or two?

good luck
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Re: Buying a house near sewage treatment plant

Postby rustymutt » Thu Jan 06, 2011 11:43 am

moneywise3 wrote:We are considering buying a house (primary residence) that is three quarters of a mile from a sewage treatment plant. We like the community and the features in the house. There are other houses closer to the plant than this one. Is this something we should totally avoid? Does a sewage plant release any harmful gases (that may be odorless)? Thanks in advance for any insight.


I would simply visit with some of the neighbors to determine rather or not the smell gets bad at times. Do you like to garden?
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Re: Buying a house near sewage treatment plant

Postby slspears92 » Tue Feb 19, 2013 12:21 pm

justkb wrote:I finally have something relevant to add to a Boglehead discussion! I've been employed at a wastewater treatment facility for almost 18 years. There are a few things to investigate before purchasing a property nearby. First and foremost, ASK QUESTIONS! The following are questions the superintendent will answer for you:

1 - What type of odor control is used, such as activated carbon scrubbing systems, primary clarifier covers, sludge thickener covers. If he says "None", end the conversation and look for a new location.

2. What is done with solids handling? This is a major source of odors. If they treat solids onsite, there will be odor issues. If they send their solids to an outside facility, they will be greatly reduced.

3. What type of chemical is used in pretreatment? If hypochlorite solution of ferric chloride is added at the local pumping stations, the incoming odors will be greatly reduced.

If your local facility actively works to address these concerns, you may experience odors once in awhile, but only on days of "low ceilings," such as high humidity days. Those days, the air becomes rather saturated with moisture, and the evaporated wastewater (and released odors) have no place to go, so they hover near ground-level.

Hope this helps!

Ken


I hope Ken gets tagged in this since I quoted him, as I am not sure how to do this, and the post is over one year old. I am in a similar home shopping situation, and have asked the plant supervisor the questions Ken suggested. The house I am looking at has a small pond and some open land between it's back yard and the water reclamation facility. It looks to be about one half mile, according to map scales. The property is directly south of the plant. In the answer to Ken's question number 1, I was told that they use chemical odor control, and that different types of odors respond better to different types of odor control. Question 2 - they do treat solid waste on site. Question three - They do not use chemicals for pre-treatment, but they do use 15% hypochlorite (and something else that I could not write fast enough to get down) in the final treatment as a disinfectant. I was additionally told that this facility does not have a primary system (I may not have that entirely correct, but the word primary was used), which means they do not hold stagnant water. They are unlike most treatment plants, in that they are entirely aerobic. He shared that they do have student groups tour the facility, and the children do not hold their noses while on the tours. The real estate agent shared that some of the folks in the neighborhood directly to the west of the plant have reported odors, but she does not know anyone in the neighborhood directly to the south (where we are looking at a house). In February it is hard to find neighbors outside to ask, and standing there sniffing the air does have the same result as doing the same in July. Anyone who can shed any further light on this issue would be greatly appreciated - thank you!

Stacey
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Re: Buying a house near sewage treatment plant

Postby epilnk » Tue Feb 19, 2013 9:41 pm

slspears92 wrote:
justkb wrote:I finally have something relevant to add to a Boglehead discussion! I've been employed at a wastewater treatment facility for almost 18 years. There are a few things to investigate before purchasing a property nearby. First and foremost, ASK QUESTIONS! The following are questions the superintendent will answer for you:

1 - What type of odor control is used, such as activated carbon scrubbing systems, primary clarifier covers, sludge thickener covers. If he says "None", end the conversation and look for a new location.

2. What is done with solids handling? This is a major source of odors. If they treat solids onsite, there will be odor issues. If they send their solids to an outside facility, they will be greatly reduced.

3. What type of chemical is used in pretreatment? If hypochlorite solution of ferric chloride is added at the local pumping stations, the incoming odors will be greatly reduced.

If your local facility actively works to address these concerns, you may experience odors once in awhile, but only on days of "low ceilings," such as high humidity days. Those days, the air becomes rather saturated with moisture, and the evaporated wastewater (and released odors) have no place to go, so they hover near ground-level.

Hope this helps!

Ken


I hope Ken gets tagged in this since I quoted him, as I am not sure how to do this, and the post is over one year old. I am in a similar home shopping situation, and have asked the plant supervisor the questions Ken suggested. The house I am looking at has a small pond and some open land between it's back yard and the water reclamation facility. It looks to be about one half mile, according to map scales. The property is directly south of the plant. In the answer to Ken's question number 1, I was told that they use chemical odor control, and that different types of odors respond better to different types of odor control. Question 2 - they do treat solid waste on site. Question three - They do not use chemicals for pre-treatment, but they do use 15% hypochlorite (and something else that I could not write fast enough to get down) in the final treatment as a disinfectant. I was additionally told that this facility does not have a primary system (I may not have that entirely correct, but the word primary was used), which means they do not hold stagnant water. They are unlike most treatment plants, in that they are entirely aerobic. He shared that they do have student groups tour the facility, and the children do not hold their noses while on the tours. The real estate agent shared that some of the folks in the neighborhood directly to the west of the plant have reported odors, but she does not know anyone in the neighborhood directly to the south (where we are looking at a house). In February it is hard to find neighbors outside to ask, and standing there sniffing the air does have the same result as doing the same in July. Anyone who can shed any further light on this issue would be greatly appreciated - thank you!

Stacey

The sewage treatment plant I live near (probably less than a mile due south of my house) is aerobic, though most of the waste processing is actually biological, not chemical. (I believe there was a chemical step at the end.) I toured it once as part of a class group, and while I wouldn't like to live right next door the smell wasn't at all bad, even when walking across the catwalk over the main tank. A much stronger smell came from the horse farm next door. Unfortunately none of this is particularly relevant to your plant near your potential neighborhood.
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