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Stench stirs alliances in Latino area
Activists team up to rid area of foul smell
Local immigrants listen as Julio Hernandez, a University of North Georgia student, speaks about upcoming elections and community events on Sunday , while in the background Alex Ramirez, right, speaks with a local resident at Tadmore Park in Gainesville.

The putrid stench parading through one Latino neighborhood in Gainesville had become too much for local residents to sniff and bear.

So, first they went looking for the source of the smell, exploring creeks and woods along the way, sure that its origins were part of a sanitation spill.

Then they filed complaints to city officials.

“We keep calling, we keep calling,” said Jose Umana, a neighborhood resident and activist.

But when students from the University of North Georgia came knocking earlier this month, the gagging smell still remained, smothering each breath of air in the neighborhood tucked between Atlanta Highway and Browns Bridge Road.

The students have teamed up with members of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials to canvass immigrant homes and businesses in Gainesville for eligible voters to register.

They have also been part of educating minority communities about local government and politics, as well as encouraging more active participation among Latinos in city events. 

But stumbling upon the smell gave them a new initiative.

Alex Ramirez, a program coordinator with GALEO, said the lack of information about the cause of the smell reflects a lack of accountability for city services in minority neighborhoods.

For years, Umana said, he’s been urging cleaner streets, speed bumps to slow traffic and other public safety improvements, all to no avail, in his neighborhood.

So students, GALEO members and residents vowed not to let the smell become another missed opportunity.

They scheduled a meeting with city officials last week and received new commitments to blow the smell away.

Kelly Randall, director of the city’s Department of Water Resources, told The Times that he only found out about the smell some three weeks ago and has since narrowed its source to two culprits.

The first, and less likely, is rotting vegetation and detritus from the removal of a beaver dam along nearby Flat Creek.

The second, seemingly more obvious answer, is a nearby egg processing plant, which lost power several weeks ago that caused problems with a wastewater pond. And the resulting stench may have been exacerbated by hot, humid days.

Randall said state inspectors have examined the plant, and additional measures have been taken to clear the air. 

“We think that’s going to resolve the issue,” he added.

While the noxious smell still lingers, Umana believes it is starting to dissipate.

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