Bad odor causes biguproar inU area

by Michael Weinbeck

People who live and work in the Prospect Park area, which borders the East Bank campus on its east side, are raising a stink over an odor that has plagued the neighborhood since the beginning of summer.
The offensive smell has caused hundreds of complaints to Minneapolis city offices, putting city administrators and some local businesses on the hot seat. But Minneapolis officials aren’t reaching a consensus on what’s causing the smell.
“It’s a sour vinegary smell,” said Monique Frye, an attendant at Luxton Park. The smell “hasn’t affected me healthwise, but it’s kind of annoying,” she said.
Some residents are concerned the odors are toxic. According to a report prepared by McGinley Associates, an environmental consultant, a potentially toxic gas called hydrogen sulfide was detected in the air in excess of Minnesota air quality standards.
“It’s really bad in the afternoon,” said Shante Mayweather, a Prospect Park resident, who said the smell was so annoying that she had trouble breathing.
Dan Passe, manager of the post office located at the corner of St. Mary’s and University avenues, said one postal worker has had to leave work early several times because she was nauseated by the odor.
The cause of the smell has been linked to two different sources: Northern Star Co., a potato processing plant, and SKB Environmental, which has several large compost piles on its property. Both SKB and Northern Star are located in the industrial area that borders Prospect Park to the north.
Karen Nordby, an environmental inspector for the city of Minneapolis, said the primary source of the odor was SKB’s compost piles. Nordby is working with both companies to alleviate the problem.
Ninety percent of the compost at SKB comes from the city of Minneapolis. SKB has been moving its largest compost pile for the past several days. The largest pile was scheduled to be completely moved to SKB’s Rosemount facility by today.
Susan Young, director of Solid Waste and Recycling for Minneapolis Public Works, the city department that contracts with SKB, doesn’t think the compost is the primary source of the odor. But her department is working closely with the company to get rid of the piles.
“If the residents are unhappy, then I’m unhappy,” said Young. “I want to take care of my piece of the problem.”
Northern Star has placed caps on several storage tanks that are thought to be potential odor sources. The modifications cost tens of thousands of dollars, said Mark Witmier, a company spokesman. Northern Star is interested in being “good citizens and neighbors” and is being “as cautious as we can be,” said Witmier, but Northern Star claims it is not a source of the odor.
Chuck McJilton, a consultant with Delta Environmental, a firm hired by the city of Minneapolis to find the cause of the odor, said the reported cases of nausea are primarily “psychological responses and not physiological responses,” and that there aren’t enough toxins in the air to make a person sick.
A final report of Delta Environmental’s findings will not be ready for several weeks.
The Minneapolis City Council will decide this week whether it will continue to ship the City’s compost to SKB’s Prospect Park site or if it will find an alternate location. All of the SKB compost piles will be moved out to the company’s Rosemount facility by September 1st.
Nordby is convinced current efforts will relieve the problem. “I think they’ll be successful,” she said.