© 2023 KPCW

Spencer F. Eccles Broadcast Center
PO Box 1372 | 460 Swede Alley
Park City | UT | 84060
Office: (435) 649-9004 | Studio: (435) 655-8255

Music & Artist Inquiries: music@kpcw.org
News Tips & Press Releases: news@kpcw.org
Volunteer Opportunities
General Inquiries: info@kpcw.org
Listen Like a Local Park City & Heber City Summit & Wasatch counties, Utah
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Stink from sewer ponds returns to Midway, managers promise relief soon

Ponds such as this one at the Heber Valley Special Service District are emitting an odor as a result of seasonal change.
Heber Valley Special Service District
Ponds like this one at the Heber Valley Special Service District are emitting an odor as a result of seasonal change.

A bad smell wafting through parts of Midway has disgusted residents. Now sewer managers say a solution is on the way.

On the outskirts of Midway, the Heber Valley Special Service District has several wastewater treatment ponds. Nearby residents say they have smelled a bad odor from those ponds for about the past week.

It’s a yearly occurrence and many say it’s stronger this year.

Midway resident Cary Hobbs says two years ago the strong springtime odor lasted a couple of months, but he didn’t notice it last year.

This spring, he says the smell comes and goes but sometimes it’s enough to keep him off his back porch, where he likes to spend his evenings.

“It's a raw sewage-type smell that's hard to describe, except that probably everybody is familiar with how bad that is,” Hobbs said. “Wednesday, today, it's not so bad, but yesterday, like later in the afternoon, it was just horrible, and we had to shut the doors and go in the house.”

Manager Dennis Gunn said the smell in the air is hydrogen sulfide released from bubbles that float to the surface. He said he’s received more complaints and questions about it this spring than in a typical year.

He attributed the stronger smell this spring to the winter lasting longer. That’s because changes in water temperature and density are what cause bubbles to come to the surface, and the cold temperatures later in the year than normal have caused a faster warming process.

Gunn acknowledged that while hydrogen sulfide can cause side effects if breathed in high concentrations, the amount that may be in the air causing the smell in nearby neighborhoods is not enough to impact health.

Wasatch County Health Department Epidemiologist Chris Smoot said side effects of hydrogen sulfide exposure at certain levels can cause symptoms such as eye and respiratory irritation, nausea, headaches and drowsiness. He said if anyone has those symptoms, they may want to visit a doctor.

Otherwise, he didn’t signal any immediate threat.

“Just because you can smell, maybe, an odor, that's not really the best indicator of what level it is — because there's a level, possibly, that is detectable, but it's not harmful,” Smoot said. “But, out of an abundance of caution, yeah, if you're concerned about your health and you're experiencing some of these symptoms, then yeah, feel free to reach out to your healthcare provider. We want to make sure people are healthy and well.”

A message the district board released to the public said a consultant visited the lagoon earlier this week and will treat the plant next week. It didn’t provide an exact timeline for when the smell should go away but that relief should be coming.

Corrected: June 9, 2023 at 10:41 AM MDT
A previous version of this story stated the Wasatch County Health Department is measuring gas levels near the Heber Valley Special Service District's ponds. The health department told KPCW it is in communication with the special service district but does not have plans to start monitoring gas levels in the area.