Residents Watch Drone Circle Wastewater Plant; Part of Odor Control Work

An X8-M drone made by 3D Robotics, similar to the one used to conduct aerial mapping of the wastewater plant. (Courtesy photograph.)

Residents near Haverhill’s Wastewater treatment plant Thursday found they could see activities at the plant rather than smell them. The visible drone making continuous sweeps of the site is one of the first steps being taken toward permanently resolving odors.

Robert E. Ward, deputy DPW director, told WHAV the drone is helping with surveying related to the estimated $8.5 million odor remediation project.

“Ultimately the survey work is used to put together bid plans for construction,” Ward said. Information obtained include the physical attributes of the 40 South Porter St. site, buildings and topography. Data will be used to create design plans for new structures or modification of existing structures, he said. The project is under the direction of Woodard & Curran of Andover.

The drone was operated by Civil Design Consultants, Methuen. “We’re excited about using that as a land survey and mapping tool. It provides some real benefits, comparing it to a traditional land surveying tool,” said Andrew B. Street, civil engineering manager for the company and vice president of its drone outfit, CivilView. “The drone quickly and cost effectively collects vast amounts of 3D data that can be used to create existing site plans and high resolution imagery.” He said his company has been using drones for about a year.

Ward said his department normally would have given residents advanced notice of the drone work, but an automated telephone messaging system isn’t working.

Unlike last year, Ward said, odors have largely been under control this season. “We’ve done some short term things that have really helped. We’ve had very few (complaint) calls this year,” he explained.

Bowker & Associates of Portland, Maine, is working with the city on odor controls, he said.

Last February, city councilors approved a request for a two percent interest loan for “design and construction of the first two phases” of odor control measures expected to be complete by summer, 2017. During an illustrated presentation to councilors, Ward said, while the short-term phase one is projected to reduce odor levels by 20 percent within six months, completion of phase two would bring an 80 percent cut in odor level. That effort includes installing covers over a “primary clarifier” at the wastewater plant.