Paso Robles News|Friday, January 27, 2023
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Foul smell coming from Firestone’s wastewater ponds 

Local residents have been reporting a foul smell coming from southern Paso Robles. After some investigation, it has been determined that the smell is coming from Firestone Walker Brewery’s newly installed wastewater pools.

Paso Robles Wastewater Technical Supervisor Christopher Slater said that the wastewater department has been receiving lots of phone calls from concerned citizens, thinking that there was some sort of sewer leak. “It’s not the city,” he said. He explained that the newly installed wastewater ponds were not working properly. “They are trying to get it fixed. The design was flawed and they are not operating as suspected.”

“Things like breweries and dairies have a high level of what we call BOD’s, or Biochemical Oxygen Demands, and they are required to treat their own water to a certain level before they can send the water to the treatment plant,” Slater said. In Firestone’s efforts to comply, something went wrong.

Firestone has enlisted the help of an engineer and a wastewater consultant, who will be arriving as soon as they can to help to remedy the issue.

Aerial photo of the facilities, with the new ponds located behind the brewery. Photo courtesy of Alison and Matt Brynildson.

Aerial photo of the facilities, with the new ponds located behind the brewery. Photo courtesy of Alison and Matt Brynildson.

Neighbors were not thrilled with the odor, but were also very understanding. “I know that they are doing everything that they can to fix it,” Trailer Barn owner Susan Borene said Friday. “No, it’s not a great smell, but they have been really apologetic. They sent out a letter explaining what was going on, and Adam (Firestone) even contacted the neighbors personally to apologize and assure us that they are doing everything they can.”

Adam Firestone and David Walker released the following statement regarding the issue:

The aromas from our wastewater treatment ponds are neither new nor permanent, but have become more pronounced in recent days due to shifting wind currents. We have expressed apologies to our neighbors, and appreciate their patience as we mitigate the issue.

Some points:

  • Our local on-site wastewater treatment is mandated by state law, and ponds like ours are the most effective method of treatment. They are plumbed so that they can send clean water back to the city to help its plant function better, or the water can be kept and reused at the brewery.
  • Our ponds contain nothing hazardous (sewage is sent directly to the city treatment center, and is not part of the pond mix). The ponds simply consist of rinse water from beer tanks. This rinse water has yeast and grain particles that can produce composting aromas.
  • The aromas are temporary. New ponds take time to fill, so that the chemistry can synergize with the development of beneficial digesting bacteria. This is a process common to all such ponds.
  • Once the biology settles in, the ponds become fully functional and more aroma neutral. Unfortunately, this takes filling them completely, which we are doing as fast as possible in the face of production limits and limited rainfall. We are hoping for more rainfall to help accelerate the timeline.
  • We began filling the ponds a few months ago, but recently southerly and easterly winds have pushed the aromas toward Ramada drive, making them more noticeable to our neighbors.


Please know that we are doing everything possible to mitigate this issue, and to complete the filling of the ponds as soon as possible. We are in touch with all of the relevant local agencies to ensure that everyone is informed about our progress. We have a team of engineering experts working with us to accelerate the timeline and neutralize the aromas as quickly as possible. Again, this is a temporary situation on the path to creating a progressive solution for wastewater treatment and water conservation at the brewery, one that will also benefit the City. We appreciate everyone’s understanding.

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