- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 12, 2014

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Tourism operators along scenic Lowell Point in Seward are hoping the city can fix a smelly problem that has begun to affect visitors.

The odor from the Lowell Point Wastewater Treatment Facility had grown strong over the last several years and is hurting tourism, operators told KTUU-TV (http://bit.ly/1r73dyb).

“The smell is just sickening,” said Lynda Paquette, who with her husband owns bed-and-breakfast cabins that overlook Resurrection Bay.

“For many years, it was totally innocuous,” said Michael Miller, owner of Miller’s landing, an outdoor recreation business that includes a campground, water taxi and cabin rentals. His mother sold the city the property for the sewage lagoon, which was built more than 30 years ago.

“People didn’t even know it was there. People would ask us what kind of fish they would catch at the hatchery up the road.” His answer: “Brown trout.”

The odor is now overpowering, said his niece, Jaimie Walker, who works at Miller’s Landing.

“The smell is so bad, and I happen to live right next to it, so I know it makes my eyes water when I come out of my cabin,” Walker said.

Lowell Point residents and business owners have filed nearly 2,500 complaints with the state in the last year. Last summer, state environmental conservation officers found the city in noncompliance. In July 2013, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation found the lagoon had more than double the permitted fecal coliform.

City public works director W.C. Casey said the odor comes from a lack of air circulation in the lagoon.

“The air feeds the bugs, which in turn eat the sewage,” said Casey. “The air lines are leaking back in the ground here.”

There’s also a buildup of “sludge,” composed of human waste, Casey said. Sludge was last removed from the pond in 1992, he said.

The city at the direction of the state formed a plan for fixing the problems and hoped to make repairs for $3 million. Bids came in Monday at $3.8 million to $6 million, City Manager Jim Hunt said.

Tourism operators say the solution may be coming too late.

“On certain days, the smell just permeates the area and customers who have been coming here for years say they’re not coming back due to that smell,” Walker said. “It’s too bad because we’re going to have to do a lot of damage control to get our customers back.”

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