Since moving back to west Michigan a year ago, I've finally learned what that smell is: Kalamazoo.

For many months as I made my daily commute from Allegan to Kalamazoo, I would find myself frequently questioning the stinky smells that came from the Northside neighborhood area. Was there a new landfill in town? Was the smell from decaying roadkill. Was it me?!

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As it turns out it's been a persistent problem in the area and the culprit is Graphic Packaging, which manufactures packing products for commercial use. Their facilities are located off of E. Paterson and N. Pitcher streets right near the Kalamazoo River.

What Stinks?

The foul smell in question is Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) , a gas that can be emitted from paper mills or wastewater treatment plants. Unfortunately for nearby residents, there is also a wastewater treatment plant located along the Kalamazoo River so that really adds to the stink.

Who Studies The Studies?

There have been numerous efforts to diminish the rotten eggs-like smell that emits from the Northside neighborhood. The City of Kalamazoo installed sensors to monitor H2S levels in the area and an Odor Task Force was created in 2020 to monitor the city's efforts to mitigate smells.

Unfortunately, results of a study on this issue by the Environmental Protection Agency have been delayed, and now the City of Kalamazoo has revealed its plans to install a new bio-filter to lessen the smells have been dropped.

Now What?

Are Kalamazoo locals just forced to live with this smell...forever? Public Services Director James Baker told WWMT that the amount budgeted for the bio-filter was millions less than what it would actually cost. It always comes down to money!

For now, Baker says the city is exploring other options such as replacing piping at the city's wastewater treatment plan-- but who knows how long that will take! Do you think it will be anytime soon? I'd say: don't hold your breath!

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