Experts determine the source of Hattiesburg's stench

For over a year a stench has been periodically wafting across Hattiesburg and into neighboring communities, and until now the cause has been a mystery.

Tuesday, Hattiesburg Director of Public Services Bennie Sellers met with state and national agencies to try and determine the source of a terrible odor in the Hub City.

Sellers was questioned by city council members about the findings. It was determined the most concentrated aroma was coming from the city's wastewater treatment lagoon, and it is being caused by sludge buildup.

Aerated lagoons are widely used by municipalities across the country to treat sewage with microbes.

Sludge buildup is a typical problem with such lagoons, according to Director of Wastewater Operations at Probiotic Solutions, Steve Harris.

A sludge blanket can release ammonia, organic acids, nutrients, and other byproducts back into the water column. It also stinks.

The city is now looking into a possible remedy.

"To treat the smell you actually treat the BOD, which is bichemical oxygen demand, to make sure you bring it down as low as possible," said Sellers. "You make sure you bring down the nitrogen to as low as possible. And that's what you treat for. You don't go out and pour something into the water that smells good."

In order to do so, said Sellers, a consultant recommends the city place more microorganisms inside the lagoon to biologically reduce the level of nitrogen and thus the smell.