Rockaway Beach waste water treatment facility upgrades protect Lake Taneycomo, local environment

ROCKAWAY BEACH, Mo. -- A stinky situation has improved in Rockaway Beach, as the county continues to upgrade the wastewater treatment plant.

"We found the treatment plant in a pretty bad state of neglect," Taney County Environmental Services Project Coordinator John Soutee said.

Soutee was called to check out the plant in Rockaway Beach several years ago when neighbors nearby kept complaining of a strong smell.

Ernest West with the Department of Natural Resources also found that the plant's problems weren't only stinky, but also threatening to nearby Lake Taneycomo.

"If they're not treating it right, we've got a lot of phosphorus, total suspended solids, and ammonia going in [the lake]. Ammonia is toxic to fish. The phosphorus will cause algae blooms," West said.

Those findings led to a rehabilitation project on the more than 40-year-old facility.

"The top thing on the list was the equipment that you have, get it operating correctly," West said.

The work at the treatment plant cost the county about $2 million. County officials say it was the price to pay for the health of the local environment.

Sewage from throughout the area comes to the Rockaway Beach facility and it will soon treat even more waste water.

"The city of Merriam Woods, the village of Bull Creek, and the City of Rockaway come into this waste water facility. In the near future, the Venice on the Lake subdivision," Soutee said.

The facility, now operated by a new contractor, has added things like additional aeroration to help with odor.

"This is a waste water plant. It stinks when they flush it and it stinks more when it gets here. But, once they get the initial treatment [that helps with odor], it's usually just a musty smell," West said.

The upgraded treatment equipment also now effectively keep the bad stuff out of the lake.

"The water going in to Lake Taneycomo is meeting limits now," West said.

It was a project that stopped a bad situation from spiraling down the drain.

"I don't even want to think what the situation would have been like today," Soutee said.

The rehabilitation project at that plant is almost complete. It was paid for by the Taney County sewer sales tax.