Point Place residents cry foul odor

Neighbors blame landfill; city says problem is elsewhere

8/20/2012
BY CLAUDIA BOYD-BARRETT
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Hoffman Road Landfill is just northwest of Point Place. City officials say the area has other sites that could be causing the smell.
Hoffman Road Landfill is just northwest of Point Place. City officials say the area has other sites that could be causing the smell.

Something stinks.

At least, that's the complaint coming from dozens of residents in and around Toledo's Point Place neighborhood.

For over a year, District 6 City Councilman Lindsay Webb said, she's been getting regular calls, emails, and social media messages from constituents concerned about a smell emanating from the direction of the city's Hoffman Road Landfill, which is just northwest of Point Place. Most of those people, including Ms. Webb, believe the landfill is responsible for what's been described as a stench of garbage or rotten eggs.

City officials maintain that the smell probably comes from somewhere else, pointing a finger at other waste-disposal and industry facilities in the area.

Special projects manager Amy Wood
Special projects manager Amy Wood

"There can be no debate it's coming from the landfill, the debate is what's causing it," said Ms. Webb, who lives in the Shoreland area of Point Place.

The councilman said she is often hit by the smell herself when outside walking with her children and has to go inside. Sometimes it makes her feel ill, she said.

"It definitely is hindering the use and enjoyment of our neighborhood, our backyard," Ms. Webb said, who has lived near the landfill all her life. "This is a new smell, and it's really noxious."

Deborah Perry, who lives on Onondaga Avenue, said she first noticed the stench this spring.

Since then it's been an on-and-off problem and seems to vary depending on the direction of the wind, she said. When it happens, the smell is particularly noticeable around the exit from I-75 onto River Road, she said.

Ms. Perry and her family have lived in the area for 10 years.

"It smells like we're living in a Dumpster sometimes," she said. "You knew it was coming from the landfill because it was just so bad."

But city administrators maintain the landfill is not to blame.

Special projects manager Amy Wood, who oversees the Hoffman Road facility, said people assume smells come from the city's landfill, but the area has many other businesses and dump sites that could be at fault.

Ms. Wood said the landfill is heavily regulated, and the garbage it receives is handled in a way that reduces odors as much as possible. She said the city doesn't even use the odor-neutralizing equipment it has, because it doesn't need to.

"You can't just smell it and say, 'Oh, it's got to be the landfill,' " said Ms. Wood. "We do the same thing day in, day out. If you smell it for a specific period of time, chances are it's not us."

In a response to an inquiry by Ms. Webb this year, Ed Irelan, solid-waste commissioner at the time, offered seven possible explanations for the smell. They included a private waste-control facility across the street, a nearby chemical company called Perstorp, a landfill for Republic Services, the city's water treatment plant, and a recycling station. Mr. Irelan also referred to an area of the Hoffman Road Landfill where the city dug up old trash last fall.

However, that work has been completed and should not be causing a problem now, Ms. Wood said.

Ms. Wood said she'd received only two complaints from residents about smells in the past six months, and none of was viable.

However, Ms. Webb said she's received many more complaints than that. The city needs to take the citizens seriously and investigate further, the councilman said. Ms. Webb referred to a situation in the early 1990s, when it was discovered that a company called Textileather, formerly Gencorp, was dumping formaldehyde into the Ottawa River. Residents at that time also complained about smells coming from the area, she said.

"I trust the trusty noses of Point Place residents. Something is afoul," Ms. Webb said. "I think the city owes an answer to the Point Place residents as to what the origin of the noxious smell is. And they haven't given us an answer. Seven or eight possible answers is a nonanswer."

During a recent visit by The Blade to the Hoffman Road Landfill, no smell of garbage was apparent in the area immediately adjacent to the site.

One nearby resident, 48-year-old Tina Reil, said she hasn't noticed anything amiss recently.

"Last year was real bad. This year they've done a pretty good job of keeping everything covered up," Ms. Reil said. "No complaints on this end."

But Dan Sczesny, a lawyer who lives on Angel Avenue in Point Place, said he's still smells whiffs of rotting eggs about once a week, usually when he goes out jogging on a hot day. He said the smell has been noticeable for the past two years, although it was worse and more frequent last summer.

Recently it's improved, which he said he's pleased about.

"Living near a landfill, I can understand there'll be a smell, but it shouldn't be every time you walk out the door," Mr. Sczesny said. "The city should do more."