Columbus City Council holds public hearing on sewer stench that residents say has been plaguing their neighborhood
COLUMBUS - It was a full house at the Columbus City Council meeting Monday night, as residents voiced their concerns about a foul stench in their neighborhood.
Residents of southeast Columbus said they've noticed the smell for more than a year.
“It’s gotten worse this summer," Tim Warren said. "Excessively worse. Almost to the point where you can’t stand to be in your home.”
Some even testified that it's sometimes so strong, it's made them sick.
“If your eyes burn and your throat burns, is it safe to be inhaling and breathing what we’re breathing?” Warren said.
Columbus Public Works said it's received complaints as early as 2017 and that it's gone to homes to investigate.
"We went out and air tested them," manager Chuck Sliva said. "We weren’t getting the high readings — if any readings we could pick up — in the home. So at this point, we feel it’s a nuisance smell more than anything.”
But that leaves residents wondering if what they're smelling is a different chemical than what the city's testing for.
Officials do say there is an issue though. They said they believe it's coming from one of the industries in the east sewer basin.
“It’s an issue with a waste water discharge coming down the sewer stream from the industry," Sliva said. "There are several industries on that line, so we have to trace it back and try to find out where it’s coming from.”
The city said it's already in the process of finding out who's out of compliance.
Public Works said it reached out to the Nebraska Department of Environmental Energy in May. NDEE said it is now investigating as well.
Some who spoke at the council meeting said they'd like to see the town hand out heavier fines to violators, to motivate them to change their practices. Others said they'd like to see violators restricted from using the town's sewers.