Berkeley County is working to eliminate the awful aroma emanating from its stinky landfill.
Officials announced Wednesday that Berkeley County Water and Sanitation is working with the state Department of Health and Environmental Control to find a solution to the odor coming from the landfill, located along U.S. Highway 52.
The site naturally stinks, but the county said the smell had gotten worse after more than 11 inches of rain fell in December.
This moisture led to the breakdown of gypsum board, resulting in the release of hydrogen sulfide gas and putting off a “rotten egg” smell, the county said.
County Councilman Kevin Cox said the issue dates back several months when the landfill area that normally accepted construction and building waste had to be closed because it was full.
This resulted in construction materials, possibly including gypsum board, being mixed in with the household trash.
Because the household trash is not as covered as construction materials, it's possible that wet gypsum board is causing the odor.
Additionally, Cox said the county received a letter from DHEC some months ago that said landfill officials were required to cover the waste with six inches of soil. The county misinterpreted the memo, Cox said. It used the dirt but discontinued its method of spraying a liquid shell over the waste to contain the stench.
“That’s when the most nauseating, consistent smell came up," Cox said. "County officials are interpreting that (memo) differently."
In December, the county began using both spray and dirt. They've also used scrubbers on pump stations that could reduce the smell coming off the water. Consultants have been brought in to conduct onsite sampling to help locate the source of the hydrogen sulfide.
“I’m thinking we’re turning the corner on getting it right," Cox said.
Local residents and business owners said they can't tell a difference, though.
Art Nichols operates Nichols Appliance at the corner of Oakley Road and Highway 52. He said he's had shoppers who, while examining appliances, caught a whiff of the unbearable odor and left.
“It’s affecting my business," Nichols said. "The landfill’s always had a an odor. It’s unbearable now. The quality of life in our business is not what it used to be.”
Nichols, who's had his business for 13 years, acknowledged that Berkeley County officials seem to be doing what they can. But he still expressed frustrations.
“If I had known the smell would be like it is now, I would have never bought the place," he said.
Ronald Metts started working at Nichols Appliance several years ago. While noting that the smell wasn't as intense back then, it was still noticeable.
“When I first came here, I thought someone was using the bathroom outside," he said.
Several neighborhoods, like Foxbank Plantation and Oakley Pointe, are near the landfill. Cox said the situation provides a valuable lesson for developers.
"If you build next to a dump, there’s going to be some smell," he said. "I was born and raised here. It’s always smelled going down Highway 52."