There’s nothing like a stench to bring people together.
And now its origin has been found.
In recent weeks, phone calls, social media comments and letters to the editor revealed the territorial range of a foul smell that inflamed the nostrils, set off the gag reflex and made simply going outside unbearable for some residents in Gainesville.
The stench was so bad — resembling a dirty toilet bowl or raw sewage — that one resident of the Cresswind at Lake Lanier subdivision off Browns Bridge Road felt compelled to review state law and discovered that Georgia only requires home sellers to notify buyers of adverse physical conditions in the “immediate neighborhood within one mile of the property.”
This resident lived just outside that limit.
Some residents have complained that the stench has indiscriminately reeked for years over neighborhoods near the Hall County Government Center.
If so, the stench seemed to take on a new life this summer.
The source of the stink was in question for weeks as city officials received help from the Environmental Protection Agency and state Environmental Protection Division to track it down.
One possible culprit was a 2- to 3-acre area of rotting vegetation from the removal of a beaver dam along Flat Creek.
But suspicions that a power outage at an egg processing plant, located on Memorial Park Drive, was to blame have proven true.
“The issue was Sonstegard (Foods) …” said Kelly Randall, Gainesville’s Water Resources director. “To my knowledge, it’s been resolved. We haven’t received … any calls about the odor issue in at least two or three weeks.”
The plant treats all egg waste, and the loss of power backed up an on-site wastewater pond.
“It was oxygen-deficient after that power outage,” said Chad Huntley, plant manager.
Essentially, the pond was deprived of enough oxygen for bacteria that break down waste to survive.
Extra aerators were brought in to mitigate the smell.
“(The EPA and EPD) were certainly concerned because of the calls … and got involved,” Huntley said, adding that Gainesville-based Hulsey Environmental Services was also called in to assist. “I think it’s turned around … and it’s back to pretty much normal.”
Randall said the smell was exacerbated by humid summertime weather.
“They did all they can do and as rapidly as they could do it, I think, to try to bring the (smell) under control,” Randall said. “It was, obviously, an unfortunate situation for all those involved.”