Windmill Begins Process of Clearing Up Odor at Aberdeen Airport

Help for dealing with a stinky Aberdeen Regional Airport holding pond has arrived.

At a meeting last month, the city commission granted permission for the airport to rent a windmill unit to help aerate the water in the holding pond. City Transportation Director Dave Osborn said the device arrived last Friday and it was placed in the pond Tuesday afternoon.

"That project was going to be a priority as soon as it arrived," he said.

The cause of the smell is attributed to a lack of oxygen in the water, as well as an alcohol-based de-icing agent that is used by Mesaba Airlines to keep planes ice-free in the winter. The smell has caused complaints from neighbors and drivers on nearby U.S. Highway 12 since April. Treatments to increase the oxygen level in the pond didn't help, but when water with more oxygen was pumped into the troublesome pond from another airport lagoon, the stink did improve.

The windmill-type device, which uses the wind to spin an underwater turbine, is the long-term solution - at least for now. The city has a rent-to-own contract with SARC Technologies International of Platte. If the windmill doesn't help with the problem, the city can legally get out of the contract after a year. The monthly rent is $250, and Osborn said it would cost roughly $8,000 if the city were to buy it outright.

If the smell doesn't improve after a year, Osborn said the city and the airport would have to look towards a permanent solution.

"We've talked about other steps that can be done as far as drying out the ponds," Osborn said. "They're quite a bit more expensive. We'd have to look at federal money to do that."

For now, the windmill is the primary plan. Osborne said it measures about 8-feet tall in height and has a base that's about 14-feet across. The windmill is seated on a floating pontoon.

Osborn said the oxygen level was checked last week and other tests were done to measure a variety of different levels in the water. It's too soon to tell if the windmill is working, but the levels will be taken again next week.

"We thought this was probably the least expensive way to work the situation," Osborne said.

And as long as the wind keeps blowing, he anticipates the device will work just fine.

"It's turning around pretty well right now," Osborn said. "There's plenty of wind in South Dakota."