Sewer Smell at Beach and Harbor Discourages Tourism

August 18, 2014


Could someone please look into why the waste treatment plant at Cape Charles continuously smells? My husband and I have a home in Cheriton and frequently have grandchildren over to visit. Of course they want to go to the beach, and the beach at Cape Charles is very convenient. Last year we noticed a sewage smell while swimming and sunning. This year it is there as well. We also put our boat in at the harbor and, of course, experience the same thing. It is very off-putting when you expect sea breezes and get only what you can only say “phew” to.

We continue to put our boat in at the harbor because of the convenience of not towing it a long distance, and because we don’t have to smell those odors because we are not there very long. We have, however, decided not to take advantage of the beach anymore, because who wants to spend the day whiffing those gases? We’ll go to Kiptopeke and pay for the privilege to breathe the clean, salty air down there. Or trip on up to Assateague and, again, pay for a glorious breezy experience and for fun playing in the waves.

I wonder how the folks in the big yachts in the harbor feel about taking in foul odors while trying to sit on the boat deck, having a cool one and grilling out? How would this go over as a recommendation to their friends to dock their boats there? How do they feel when they have friends over and they ask, “How can you stand that smell?”


What do you think first-time vacationers think when they rent a place in town or come from another area to the beach and they have to smell that smell? And the Shanty restaurant sits right there at the docks. They are an “open air” eatery in good weather, aren’t they?

Granted, one only has to put up with the foulness of the air when the wind is blowing in the direction from the treatment plant across the harbor and to the beach, which is, I think, northwest. I guess folks need to check with weather authorities for wind direction before heading to Cape Charles. How cool is that?

I know waste treatment means WASTE treatment — but couldn’t it be neutralized, or at least have a deodorant component added?

Something else to look into: large ships anchoring parallel to the town. They sit there for weeks, sometimes months. No, no, they can’t be dumping waste right off the coast! We have fished downwind of them and smelled sewage, but it is illegal to dump anywhere other than way offshore! Yeah, right!


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6 Responses to “LETTER
Sewer Smell at Beach and Harbor Discourages Tourism”

  1. Joseph Corcoran on August 18th, 2014 8:14 am

    I wonder if the aroma reported is not from the waste water treatment plant and is the normal low-tide aroma? I know of some places that have a lot of decaying kelp on the beach that have very strong aromas. The only time I have noticed the new plant smell is when I am right next to it with the wind from the south. On the beach the wind is almost always from the northwest or southwest so that beach goers are not downwind of the plant.

  2. Joe Matthews on August 18th, 2014 12:16 pm

    I agree with Mr. Corcoran. We put in daily or at least check in at dock. Smell is there on the drive in and out going past it, but neither on the docks nor at the Shanty do you seem to notice it. We also attend sunsets at Cape Charles beach on a regular basis and I have never noticed the distinctive aroma there. Low tide yes, bunker or other bait fish yes, but never processing/processed sewage

  3. Janis Gleason on August 23rd, 2014 11:30 pm

    Thank you gentlemen for your comments, however, I know the difference between sewer waste smell and the mud smell that’s encountered at various places around the shore. Didn’t smell anything at the beach and boat ramp until the treatment plant started operating. If you want to pretend it’s not there its up to you.

  4. Mike Kuzma on August 25th, 2014 12:01 pm

    We stopped in on the way down to the grandparents’ place on Saturday night — stopped at the public toilets near the pier — oh dear lord! It might benefit the town to empty them occasionally. THAT was the source of the smell. That and low tide. A well run wastewater treatment facility has minimal smells. And having visited many many gas station rest rooms over the decades, I can tell you that that was no sewer treatment plant smell.

  5. Joseph Corcoran on September 2nd, 2014 12:23 pm

    I have to amend my original comment on “the smell”: I was standing between the “Eagle Scout” restrooms and the flagpole and there was a smell of raw sewage. As most of you know, the old sewage plant that did not do much treatment used to be just east of the restrooms.

  6. Don & Deborah Bender on September 2nd, 2014 7:41 pm

    99 percent of the time whenever we put our boat over at the harbor or ride over to the harbor the sewer plant REEKS. The sewer plant can also be smelled at Rayfield’s if the wind is blowing in that direction. Hats off to the Panek/Sullivan/Bannon/Natali regime for putting that stinking plant right up close to the road for all to smell AND for putting it right next to the Historic Rosenwald School.