SIOUX CITY | Danny Hauser for years avoided going outside his Riverside home.
"The smell used to be pretty bad," said Hauser, who lives near the Big Sioux River. "At times, it even came right in the house."
But about six months ago, during the height of the summer heat, something surprising happened: The awful stench that inundated Hauser's neighborhood started to fade away.
"It's a whole lot better now," Hauser said.
The reduction is due to a series of policy changes put into place to address the longstanding problem of nasty odors coming from Sioux City industries and municipal sewer facilities.
In the case of Hauser's neighborhood, the Riverside Lift Station at 1140 Florence Ave. was the major source. The squat brick building houses one of four pumps that send raw sewage to the Wastewater Treatment Plant, at 3100 S. Lewis Blvd., for treatment.
The city in April awarded a $209,000 contract to US Peroxide, of Atlanta, to inject hydrogen peroxide and iron chloride into the system, which handles 29 million gallons of sewage a day from users in Sioux City, South Sioux City, North Sioux City and Sergeant Bluff. Previously, no chemicals were added to mask the smell.
About $70 million also was spent upgrading the main Treatment Plant and replacing an outdated, open sewer line underneath Interstate 29 near the former Stockyards area. At the Riverside site, crews also repaired a faulty pump.
Kim Sands, who lives on Metropolitan Street near the lift station, said the smell is noticeably better compared to a couple of years ago, when she would constantly call the city to complain.
"In the past, sometimes it smelled like rotten eggs," she said. "Other times, it smelled like rotten garbage that has been sitting outside."
Mayor Bob Scott is encouraged the effort is paying off. He said the odor problem harms the city's quality of life and makes it difficult to attract businesses. He made addressing it a priority when he was elected into office in 2011.
"I'm glad it's working, and it is part of our overall plan to address this issue," Scott said.
For the next phase, city officials are pursuing a more rigorous regulatory and fining system, largely targeting industries. The plans, which the City Council would have to approve, would set up a panel to investigate odor complaints.
Local industries and city officials met last year, but no date has been set to present the ordinance to the City Council.
Desiree McCaslen, who coordinates water treatment and testing for the city, said the key moving forward will be making sure everyone understands the importance of the issue. Two North Sioux City industries -- Interbake Foods and Royal Canin -- have already begun pre-treating waste, for example.
"It's all about building a relationship with people," she said. "We want to make this work."
Sands hopes the era of smelly Sioux City is over, although only time will tell.
"Once the weather gets hot and humid again and there is no wind," she said, "will it be OK?"