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Smell in the air being investigated by LDEQ; officials give update Thursday

1 month 6 days 1 hour ago Thursday, October 22 2020 Oct 22, 2020 October 22, 2020 6:15 PM October 22, 2020 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE - It's one of the worst smells Carlas Williams says she's ever smelled in her life.

"We don't know what it is," she said. "It smells like raw sewage; it's horrible."

Williams says she first started smelling the strong odor in August along Airline Highway near Prescott Road. It crept into her home and woke her up at night.

"It was coming in through the vents at our house and it was so horrific you can't sleep," Williams said. "It was burning our throats, our nose."

She contacted 2 On Your Side in early October.

The city-parish tells 2 On Your Side it's been tracking down the culprit of the smell for several weeks and says it's not coming from the sewer. It contacted the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality to help get the issue fixed and assured WBRZ it "should be resolved soon."

LDEQ confirms it is assisting the city-parish with the investigation of these odor reports. LDEQ has sent the Mobile Air Monitoring Laboratory #1 to sample the air pollutants. Wednesday morning, it was stationed in the 6600 block of Airline Highway.

The MAML provides instantaneous data relating to air quality. Environmental scientist Thomas Lee is manning the MAML and taking a look at the readings in response to odor and dust complaints in the area. He says he can smell that smell too.

"I can't really describe what it is, it's a unique odor and it comes and goes," Lee said.

Lee says the MAML will help to determine what the smell is if anything. He travels around the state investigating similar complaints.

"This one is in a very industrial area," he said. "A lot of commercial businesses in this area, big trucks, road debris."

The MAML was stationed along Airline Highway Thursday and will be monitoring the area for pollutants until Friday around lunchtime. That data is instantaneously uploaded to LDEQ's website and can be found here.

Thursday, Air planning and assessment administrator John Meyers says so far the readings haven't turned up anything out of the ordinary. 

"We have been seeing some sulfur compound, some things that can produce an odor but so far nothing of any health concern," said Meyers.

In addition to the MAML, LDEQ has been driving to various locations up and down Airline Highway taking readings at various locations. So far, the state says it's looking at several businesses in the area as a possible source but won't name a business until it's sure. LDEQ says it could be a combination of two or more.

Across the street from the MAML are several industrial businesses. A couple of them have been on LDEQ's radar for years regarding air quality and solid waste reports, among other things. Those reports have been investigated as recently as October 5, 2020.

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