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Winnebago Landfill to put in odor neutralizing system

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ROCKFORD (WREX) — For months, people have complained about the smell coming from the Winnebago Landfill, but the district manager of the Landfill says it has a plan to fix the odor issues.

Neighbors say they smell it in their cars.

"Right away I smelled it, got really sick to my stomach," Mona Knowlton, a resident who lives near the Landfill says. "In fact, I've been sick to stomach ever since."

It's in their clothes.

"I've been getting sick [and] my daughter has thrown up," Ginger Haas, another nearby resident, says. "We have about nine absences this school year."

And it's in their homes.

"The last year and a half is when it was really starting to be the worst," David DeBlauw, who has lived near the Landfill for years, says.

Now, the Landfill's district manager Lacy Ballard says the Landfill's owner is in the process of installing a system to neutralize the odor.

"It consists of about 4,000 linear feet of piping that's used to distribute the air vapor with the neutralizing chemistry," Ballard explains.

The system is being installed on the corner of Baxter and Lindenwood Roads. It will go 2,000 feet along both streets.

Winnebago County board member Dave Kelley says he's done research on the system, and in fact, he's the one who told Ballard about it.

"This is something to solve our immediate problem," Kelley explains.

Though Ballard says the chemical compound neutralizing the odor is not toxic and safe for use, fighting chemicals with more chemicals isn't something that sits well with some residents.

"I was hoping they'd get rid of chemicals they're putting in the air," Haas says. "Fix the problem, not add more chemicals to the system. I don't like it."

On Thursday, in court documents obtained by 13 WREX, the state of Illinois said the chemicals emanating from the Landfill include mercaptans, sulfur compounds, methane, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen sulfide. Hydrogen sulfide is considered an "extremely dangerous chemical" by the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

Also on Thursday, the attorney general's office updated its complaint against the Landfill, specifically a section on air pollution. There are now 46 points under air pollution in the lawsuit.

Winnebago County Board Chairman Frank Haney says the Landfill has multiple Illinois EPA violations, some of which, according to Haney, are "basic standards that every landfill in the state of Illinois must be in compliance with."

Haney says there's even been talk of an injunctive relief, which Haney says could expedite the process.

"It certainly elevates the urgency of the Landfill coming into compliance," Haney explains.

And Ballard says the neutralizing system is just the first step. He says the Landfill has already spent over $2 million to improve its current gas collection system. Ballard says the goal is to have the odor neutralizing system up and running by the end of the year.

Homeowners say they hope the system offers some relief while they wait for a more permanent solution.

Richard Bodee

Richard Bodee is a reporter at WREX. He joined the 13 WREX team in June 2019 after graduating from DePaul University with a Master’s degree in broadcast journalism.

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