Smelly Neighborhood Makes Some Residents Gag

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- What's that smell? That's what folks in one Kansas City neighborhood want to know. FOX 4's Katie Ferrell found it wasn't an easy question to answer.

The stinky neighborhood in question is the Scarrit Renaissance Neighborhood near St. John and Jackson in Kansas City, Missouri. It's in the heart of the city and within just a couple miles you find a heavy industrial area, the Little Blue River, a cornstarch plant and multiple sewage treatment plants.

David Hancock has lived in the neighborhood since 2008. He says some days the smell is unbearable. Hancock has gone to extreme measures to escape the stink.

"One night it peaked so badly that I really had trouble breathing, I got I have an organic vapor mask it's like a gas mask I put on," said Hancock. "Between the scale of 1 to 10 as for how strong it is, I'd give it an 11 in terms of the potency," he said.

And, Hancock isn't the only one holding his nose.

"Every summer if you come over here and look at the sewage hole where the water department goes into, there is a horrible smell coming out of the sewage," said fellow resident Peter Louis.

So what's causing the stink? There are several culprits. Just four miles away from Hancock's house is the National Starch and Chemical Company- now called Ingredion.

Hancock says in 2008 after filing complaints he got a letter from the Department of Natural Resources saying after an investigation it believed the odor in question was coming from the North Kansas City plant. The DNR said it had received many odor complaints. But, it said the odor wasn't strong enough to issue a notice of violation. This year's inspection of the North Kansas City plant determined it is in compliance with rules and regulations.

We kept searching and called the city of North Kansas City. Hancock says he was told by others that the violator could be the city of North Kansas City burning sewage. But, Public Works Director Pat Hawver says not only does it not burn, it pumps its sewage to Kansas City.

Then we scoped out the the nearby industrial district. The area smells, but it's still miles away from Hancock's house.

So, we called the Kansas City Water Department. Within hours of our call they sent a crew to 'jet' the sewers in Hancock's neighborhood and investigate. Jennifer Kincaid with the Water Services Department says crews found some minor problems there.

"They went out they ran some water through they did find a little bit of gravel material that could be holding in some stench and they've removed that as well, like I said that's a great first step," says Kincaid.

Kincaid says in the older neighborhood the dry summer could also be playing a role in the stench.

"When we haven't had a lot of rainfall then those systems, the rain doesn't come down into the system and wash out materials that might be stuck in your neighborhood sewer they need to keep on flowing thorough so certainly rainfall does have a little bit of an effect on sewer smells that might come up," she says.

When asked if folks in the neighborhood could smell what's happening at the actual treatment facility itself, Kincaid said it's a possibility, but not likely. She says many different steps are taken to reduce odors coming from the plant.

A seemingly simple fix- but will it work? Hancock says he sure hopes so.

"This is a great area. It's in transition. We're trying to attract people to the area and there are a lot of good things about the area, but this is one of the problems," he said.

Kincaid says if your neighborhood smells, call '311'.  She says the water department will come out and investigate.

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