KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — For years, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has received complaints about an odor coming from certain parts of Kalamazoo.
Those complaints have all stemmed from two major factories located on the northeast side.
On Monday, the city released a statement stating that MDHHS investigated, finding that hydrogen sulfide and other “volatile organic compounds” are coming from Graphic Packaging International and the Kalamazoo Reclamation Plant, which are causing unpleasant smells within the city.
“It’s a stench … It’s not paper, it’s just not paper. It’s a stench,” said Kalamazoo resident, Debra Harrisfields.
People living in Kalamazoo said the foul odors have caused headaches, nausea, eye irritation and even breathing problems. It’s something residents say has been around for decades.
However, Kalamazoo Reclamation Plant and GPI said they are working together to combat those unwanted smells.
“We’ve got insight plant review right now,” said James J. Baker, Kalamazoo Public Services Director and City Engineer. “A major process improvement for them to add oxygen to their system, so that’s going to help minimize the creation of that hydrogen sulfide gas and kind of stop it at the source. We also have a project where we’re going to reroute their pipeline, their discharge from their wastewater process to us.”
In the past, GPI has even been served with several odor violation notices. Back in February, the company was fined with more than $100,000 and given a compliance plan to draw down those odor issues.
“I mean, just think of it, you can’t raise your windows, said Harrisfields. “If anybody living in other parts of the city, if they had to live here, they would do something about it real quick. I know it’s contaminated. They need to put back into our community.”
In a statement, the city said the Kalamazoo Wastewater Reclamation Plant has invested more than $5 million in odor mitigation improvements.
“The odors in the neighborhood, it’s something that we’re really working to mitigate,” said Bakers. “We’re not done until we get everything to zero, is really our goal. I mean, that’s where we’d like to be.”
The MDHHS has also planned two community town halls to discuss the results of its investigation and answer questions. The first will be held at 5:30 p.m. May 18 at Mount Zion Baptist Church. The other will be held at 1 p.m. Wednesday, May 24 at the Urban Alliance in Kalamazoo.
GPI released a statement on its blog about the MDHHS study a week after it was released. In it, it said it had reached and agreement with EGLE in February to limit hydrogen sulfide emissions.