What's that smell in West University?

June 2, 2009 3:17:08 PM PDT
Some Houston homeowners who live along Braes Bayou are upset with some West University officials. That's because they chopped down several trees that lined the back side of a wastewater treatment plant along the bayou. They say the trees were blocking the bad smell coming from the plant. "It was a very nice view from here," said homeowner Hector Caram.

Caram built his home on Braes Bayou for a reason.

"It was pleasant," he said. "As pleasant as you can find within the city limits of Houston, to have all this green space."

That's why he's furious his view has suddenly changed. Frankly, he thinks his whole neighborhood now smells.

"It smells like raw sewage," said Caram. "That's what it smells like."

Last month, the city of West University Place cut down the thick crop of trees surrounding its sewage treatment plant on Kirby and North Braeswood within Houston city limits. And for neighbors who live, work or jog around there, the difference is jarring.

"You noticed it right away," said jogger Lauren Cozad. "You said, 'Oh, why'd they take those trees down,' because we didn't even know there was anything back there."

But West University Public Works Director Chris Peifer says his city didn't have a choice.

"It is a secure facility," said Peifer.

Peiffer told us the state ordered the city to clear the fence line here and increase visibility, so security guards can more easily spot anyone trying to break in there. He says it's a matter of homeland security.

So we had to ask. Does the city really consider this little plant a terrorist target?

"You never know, but terrorism is to disrupt one's life," said Peifer.

And Peiffer says you can only imagine how much disruption someone could cause by tampering with your running water and sewage.

He's hoping neighbors will be patient. But right now, some just want that smell gone.

The city does plan to replace the trees it cut down. There won't be as many, so it may not insulate the smell as well as neighbors say it used to. But Peiffer says it will look much nicer and much more manicured.

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