Since the Portland Water District built a pumping station across from Dave Harradon’s home, the Gorham resident has been keeping a daily smell log. In it, he records the times odor permeating from the building has awoken him from sleep, forcing him to shut all the windows in his home. Other entries simply read “HWO” for human waste odor.

“It’s nasty,” Harradon said “The hot and humid days are the worst.”

Harradon’s home, on 32 Mallison St., in Little Falls, sits directly across from the newly constructed Portland Water District pump station, which pumps nearly 85,000 gallons of raw sewage past his front door every day, creating an odor he describes as “unbearable.”

Harradon, whose home sits about 50 feet from the pumping station, has been the most outspoken resident in his neighborhood, but he isn’t the only one noticing the smell. He has collected letters from seven people in the area who have also complained about the odor. Despite that, officials from the town and Portland Water District say there’s little that can be done to alleviate the problem immediately.

“We’ve had a series of conversations with Mr. Harradon the past couple of months, and from the town’s perspective those have been addressed,” said Clint Cushman, Gorham’s code enforcement officer. “It’s not that we don’t empathize with the neighbors complaining about it and dealing with it, it’s just that we don’t have the manpower or the engineers to deal with the problem ourselves.”

The 20-foot-by-28-foot, brick building sits above a pump and underground tanks, where waste is pumped from the nearby Maine Correctional Center via a closed pipe and emptied into an underground pipe on the Gorham side of the river on Mallison Street. From there, it flows into the waste pumping station, said Jay Hewett, chief engineer for the Portland Water District.

Hewett acknowledged the odor problem, but he and the water district don’t know what is causing it.

“There is no good reason for the odor to be getting out into the neighborhood,” Hewett said. “Most of our (61) pumping stations do not have odor complaints.”

Hewett said the water district is researching the problem, is working with the prison to add deodorizing chemicals and has sealed manhole covers to reduce odor emission. The district is also working with Bowker and Associates in Portland, odor control experts, to install a large odor filter that absorbs the bad-smelling air and turns it into fresh air, Hewett said.

But for those living with the smell, a solution can’t come quickly enough. Harradon’s neighbor, Walter Grant, who has lived in his home at 30 Mallison St. for 40 years, shares his frustration.

“It smells like sewer, and there’s nothing we can do about it,” said Grant.

Fred Gallant, an environmental specialist with the Department of Environmental Protection, said odor is not regulated and is usally not a problem at the hundreds of pumping stations throughout Maine.

“You really don’t expect this,” Gallant said. “This is not your typical or usual situation.”

That, however, hasn’t stopped Harradon from trying to get the odor to stop.

In addition to the smell log he’s keeping, he has collected more than 100 pages of letters and correspondence that document his contact with Gorham town councilors, Gorham Town Manager David Cole, Cushman and other administrative figures in the town and the Portland Water District.

The smell isn’t the first complaint he’s had about the pumping station. Harradon began battling against it when he noticed a construction crew clearing the seven large pine trees in the corner lot in April 2007. The crew did not have a permit, according to the town, and Harradon successfully fought for a stop-work order that lasted three months, until the water district acquired the proper paperwork to continue construction.

When the building went up this spring, there were three lights, two on the front and one in the back, that brightly illuminated Harradon’s property.

“I was out back, and I thought a bunch of cars pulled in my yard,” he said. “I ran around the front and noticed nobody was in my driveway, but that the lights from the pumping station were shining into my yard.”

Harradon immediately wrote to Cushman to complain about the lights. In response, the town asked the water district to turn off a motion sensor on the lights. However, Harradon and his neighbors are still coping with the odor, which doesn’t appear to have an easy off switch.

“I don’t think we have a deadline,” Hewett said. “Unfortunately, this is an unexpected problem, and it’s not going to be a real quick fix to solve it. I’m hoping to be making improvements in the next couple of months, and that’s as optimistic as I can be at this point.”

That promise hasn’t satisfied Harradon and some of his neighbors, who feel their quality of life is being disrupted in what had been a quiet, odor-free neighborhood.

“They just keep putting it off and putting it off,” said Grant. “I would hope they’re going to fix it.”

Harradon said he feels as though he’s lost value in his home and says he’s thinking of moving.

“I moved here on this corner lot to be left alone. I don’t bother anybody,” he said. “Now I have to deal with this. It’s not right.”

Talking about the smell of waste coming from the pumping station across the street from where he lives, Walter Grant, of 30 Mallison Street in Gorham, stands in front of his house Friday afternoon. A new Portland Water District pumping station was built 50 feet from Dave Harradon’s home at 32 Mallison St.Dave Harradon describes the sewage smell emanating from a pumping station on Mallison Street as “unbearable.”


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