Elmer Herr

Obituary: Chemist Elmer Herr led fight on wastewater plant odors

Published: Friday, Dec. 28, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 4B

Elmer F. Herr, a self-taught chemist who led efforts to combat nuisance odors at Sacramento's wastewater treatment plant, died Dec. 13 of congestive heart failure, his family said. He was 92.

Mr. Herr retired in 1979 as superintendent of the city's former wastewater treatment plant in the South Land Park neighborhood. He started in 1954 as an entry-level chemist after a brief stint at a Sacramento County water plant.

A Navy veteran who worked at a downtown gas station, he had no previous scientific background or experience in treating wastewater.

Instead, he studied textbooks and went to night school on his own to get the technical training for the job, said his son Robert.

By 1971, as residential development grew, neighbors complained about strong odors from the treatment plant.

Mr. Herr oversaw efforts to create innovative solutions, including 120-foot-diameter domes that were made of plastic foam and placed atop giant biofilters to catch emissions.

In addition, his crew developed one of the first processes for using activated carbon for odor control on a large scale, former plant employee Ron Myers said.

Mr. Herr was born Feb. 27, 1920, in Tripp, S.D. He served in the Navy in the South Pacific during World War II.

He was a longtime Hollywood Park resident and had two children with his wife of 68 years, Deloris, who died Dec. 19.

He was a Master Mason and an active member for 58 years at Bethany Presbyterian Church in Sacramento.

Survivors include his daughter, Yvonne Stockton of Sacramento; son, Robert of Sacramento; six grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; and one great-great-grandchild.

A memorial service is set for 1 p.m. today at Bethany Presbyterian Church, 5625 24th St., Sacramento. Donations may be made to Bethany Presbyterian Church.

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