Glen Ellyn Neighbors Holding Noses Over Stench From Wastewater Plant

CHICAGO (CBS) — Something’s rotten in the village of Glen Ellyn, and a public meeting has been scheduled to discuss the stench that has been bothering residents for weeks.

Cathy Hosek said the smell is so bad, she and others have had to limit their outdoor time this summer.

“My daughter graduated from high school. We had a graduation party that was awful; stunk up the backyard,” she said.

She and others even have gone so far as to change up their exercise routines.

“We walk around the neighborhood for exercise. There’s people walking their dogs all the time, people walking for exercise, and we’ve had to drive to other neighborhoods to walk,” she said.

Hosek said the culprit is the Glenbard Wastewater Authority (GWA) treatment plant, which sits next to two subdivisions – including her Butterfield West subdivision – and Westfield Elementary School.

“It smells like dairy farm. It’s like there’s cow manure there,” she said.

Hosek said the executive director of the wastewater plant made sure there was no odor in the air for one day this summer.

“He knew that we were having a neighborhood block party on the subdivision that’s immediately over the chain-link fence to them, and they made it not smell on that one day,” she said.

Hosek said she’s lived in the community for 21 years.

“It was really bad for one year about 15 years ago, and then for the last 15 years it has been not bad at all,” she said.

Westfield Elementary School said the GWA, the village of Glen Ellyn, and the Illinois EPA have assured the school district that, although the odor is unpleasant, it is not harmful.

GWA sent the school a letter explaining that the odor is the result of “a biologic upset to the anaerobic digestion process” in the treatment plant. The agency said it first received odor complaints in early August.

“While this upset occurred quickly and staff immediately began taking steps to correct it, the time it takes to correct an upset, unfortunately, is much longer and an exact corrections timetable is unknown,” the letter said.

The plant also noted there has not been any significant rain in the area for a couple months, and rain normally would dilute what is in the plant’s process tanks and pipes, compounding the odor problem

GWA assistant director and engineer Matthew Streicher said the plant has been adding baking soda to the digesters to try to restore a normal process, and set up deodorizer spray systems that have been running non-stop for weeks:

“We are sympathetic to and empathize with the residents in the surrounding area and are doing everything we know to bring the odors under control. As our facility is a wastewater treatment facility and while most days there are no odor issues, odors are not uncommon to our facility; especially during seasonal low flows where odors do become more noticeable. Unfortunately, time and patience is not what our neighbors want to hear and we understand that, and wish there was more that we could do. I assure you, that myself and all GWA staff are diligently working to bring the process back inline and have the odors mitigated as quick as possible,” Streicher wrote.

The authority also was hosting a public meeting Thursday at 6 p.m. at Westfield Elementary School to discuss the problem.

More from Bernie Tafoya

Watch & Listen LIVE