Stinky solution needed

Published 5:10 pm Thursday, February 4, 2010

It would be easy to hear the complaints concerning the unusually strong odors that seem to be emanating from the Southeastern Public Service Authority’s regional landfill and respond in a frustrated manner that questions the expectations of those who live near such facilities.

After all, landfills — which used to go by the more obviously descriptive name, dumps — are places where refuse rots while it waits to be covered in soil and then ferments underground, creating sulfuric gases that must then be released into the atmosphere or captured and reprocessed into energy to keep the garbage mound from exploding from the natural forces inside.

Of course landfills stink. It’s a byproduct of the whole process.

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But the odor described at a Wednesday City Council meeting by folks who live in the area surrounding SPSA’s landfill seems to go well beyond the “normal” level of stench. Whether the stench reminded them of rotten eggs or of something even worse, speakers agreed about their concerns that there might be far worse effects from the odor than offended nostrils.

Residents told of being sickened by the stench and experiencing migraines and burning in their throats as the pungency has increased in recent months. Even Councilman Leroy Bennett, whose property backs up to the landfill, has reported being sickened by the stench.

There is ample evidence that landfill neighbors are experiencing a problem. Suffolk Fire and Rescue has reported receiving numerous calls from people reporting strange odors recently. A couple of months ago, a local daycare center was evacuated as folks in the area reported the smell of gas, which turned out to be the landfill on an especially pungent day.

Finding the precise source of an odor problem at a landfill might seem to be akin to searching for the proverbial “needle in a haystack.” But that’s just the task ahead of city officials, landfill representatives, environmental experts and residents, who want to get to the bottom of the problem.

Residents of the area should be pleased to know that City Council has taken their complaints seriously and will do something a little more useful than just sitting around and waiting for the winds to change.