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Work targeting stink at Laguna Beach wastewater station is set to begin Tuesday

Bluebird SOCWA lift station Laguna Beach
The Bluebird South Orange County Wastewater Authority lift station in Laguna Beach will receive an odor control system to eliminate smells emanating from the sewage plant.
(Courtesy of Hannah Johnson)

After months of delays and years of complaints from neighbors about sewage odors, Laguna Beach’s largest wastewater pumping facility, near the “Glenneyre Dip,” is getting an upgrade starting next week.

In addition to clearing up the odor problem, the project at the Bluebird South Orange County Wastewater Authority lift station at Glenneyre and Calliope streets is expected to improve public access from Glenneyre to Galen Drive.

The project involves building a new structure to house IBOx odor control technology and replacing a staircase that leads from Glenneyre to Galen. The city estimates construction will take three months to complete.

Work is expected to begin Tuesday, more than two months after the City Council approved an $824,696 contract with Pascal and Ludwig Constructors to follow up a design contract the council approved in November 2017 with Civil Source, now known as NV5.

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In December last year, the council approved the purchase of the odor control system. David Shissler, Laguna’s director of water quality, said then that he expected bidding for the project to begin in February, with the intent of achieving a smell-free Glenneyre Street by summer.

But the city’s project manager, Hannah Johnson, said it took longer than expected to design a project that suited area residents.

“It just took a little bit longer to get everybody on the same page so everybody was happy and we can move forward,” Johnson said. “It is pretty impactful to the immediately adjacent neighbors, so it took a lot of coordination to make sure everyone was satisfied.”

Johnson said the city installed a temporary system about three weeks ago to eliminate odors while construction gets underway.

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Councilwoman Toni Iseman, who lives on Glenneyre Street, said the smell has diminished in recent months.

“For years, I’ve gotten the whiff,” Iseman said. “It hasn’t been as bad recently.”

The city installed a similar system at the South Orange County Wastewater Authority station near the farmers market on Broadway Street. Iseman said she never notices a smell there anymore.

“You could really be overwhelmed by what was there,” she said. “Before, it was just wretched.”

The Bluebird SOCWA station collects 2 million gallons of wastewater per day from various lift stations around the city, Johnson said. It pumps the sewage to the coastal treatment plant in Aliso Canyon. The facility on Glenneyre Street is “like the last stop for all wastewater,” Johnson said.

Typically, the sewage stench lessens during the day because of an uptick in use — with more flushes, sewage continuously moves through the system. The worst smell usually comes in the early morning after a night of sewage sitting and stagnating.

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