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  • Writer's pictureMike Roberts

Should You Be Concerned by a Wastewater Plant Near Your Home?

If you’re shopping for a home, you should always learn about the community surrounding any house you are considering. How concerned should you be if there’s a wastewater treatment plant nearby? If a new one is proposed, should you pass on the house?

Wastewater treatment plants: the basics

Municipalities use treatment plants to remove not just human waste but detergents and other chemicals from household and commercial wastewater. The plants convert inflow into different types of treated solids as well as water that can be safely returned to the environment. This water will not necessarily be potable (i.e., usable for drinking) but may be fine for local agriculture.

Considerations when buying a house

The issue of wastewater treatment plants underscores the importance of due diligence in home shopping. Learn all that you can on any house that interests you as well as its neighborhood and the surrounding community. That lovely greenbelt of trees behind the property’s back fence? It may be slated to become a freeway or an apartment complex. Even if the house is already in a developed area, you should learn what is within a few miles’ radius of the home and what projects are planned.

If you discover a wastewater treatment plant more than a mile or two from a prospective home, you can assume it will have little impact on the property’s value and your quality of life. If the plant is closer than that, however, you should give the purchase some thought.

Short of an accident, the reality is that there is very little chance of health danger.  The federal Environmental Protection Agency as well as state agencies extensively regulate wastewater processing. Odors, however, may be an issue. Smells will be most noticeable on hot, humid days. Find out where the plant lies within the predominant wind pattern most of the year. Will you be up or downwind? You can also ask the seller or his agent about any impact from the facility. Do not rely solely on either one’s response. They may be honest, but they also may minimize the problem.

Do your research

To be certain, search the Internet for any history of accidents, regulatory infractions and/or plans for expansion. Go to the website of the state agencies that regulate the plant — usually an environmental protection agency and a state utilities commission, perhaps others — and search these same issues.

Your agent will likely provide you with comparable prices for homes in the neighborhood. Ask whether there are signs that the plant’s presence has a negative impact on prices and the number of days on the market.

If you discover information indicating the plant is a drag on area home sales, you may want to pass. Think ahead: You might be getting a great deal, but you’ll face the same selling challenges in the future.

What if a plant is planned or will be expanded?

If you already own a home near a wastewater plant where expansion is planned or near a site where a new plant is to be built, what should you do?

With all utility plants, construction is planned years in advance. The project plans are public information available through the relevant regulatory agencies. Research their websites and contact the offices for information. You should also contact your county commissioners, who must approve any such projects to be built within their jurisdiction. Utility projects almost always have a required period for public input, so make your voice heard during that time. Organize a local citizens group to attend and speak at public meetings.

Communities generally pay for utility projects with a public bond issue, which must be voted on as a ballot item in a public election. Conduct petition drives and mobilize voters to fight the bond issue. Your group should hire an attorney specializing in public utility and environmental law to guide the opposition effort.

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