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Neighbors say Darien still smells; Bird's Eye says eliminating odor "requires time"

DARIEN, Wis. (CBS 58) -- There's still an odor in Darien according to some neighbors. They say the stench smells like spoiled milk, and makes you lose your appetite.

CBS 58 has reported on the problem for over a year. A couple months ago, the food manufacturing facility responsible for that stink said they were doing something about it.

Neighbors say the bad smell has been around for 6 years, but in the last year, the problem finally went to a county board committee.

It now been months since Bird's Eye, a food manufacturing facility, installed aerators to try to eliminate the odor.

"We look at the appearance of the lagoon - it's changed tremendously since we turned on the system back in May," said Daniel Majorowicz, Environmental Health and Safety Manager with Pinnacle Foods Inc.

Majorowicz presented in front of the Walworth County Zoning Agency Thursday. He told members that pH readings show the aerators are working.

Neighbors, the county, and Bird's Eye all agree there is an odor.

Bird's Eye uses two large ponds or lagoons, and a sludge builds at the bottom, and when the sludge is moved, that's where the odor comes from.

"When you agitate the sludge and create suspension within the lagoon that odor has the ability to get dispersed out on the sprayfield," said Majorowicz.

When a committee member asked, "Is there ever going to be a day when the neighbors are going to be content?"

Majorowicz said, "I can't answer that, I'm not the neighbor." He also told the committee the process will take time and should continue to improve.

"It's been smelly for a long time," said Josh Wicyk. Wicyk started the Facebook group, 'Stop the Stink from Birds Eye Foods in Darien WI.'

Bird's Eye does have a legal responsibility to tackle the smell. Walworth County Deputy Corporation Council Michael Cotter says in short, they have to be good neighbors and eliminate nuisance or the county could pull their permits.

"That's the big hammer that's over Bird's Eye to get something done," said Cotter.

"My purpose behind this has never been to put anybody out of business, or to shut anybody down, it's to have the company do the right thing and be a good neighbor to those around them," said Wicyk.

Neighbors say they're still smelling the same thing in Darien - even after the aerators.

"When we get a north wind, it's a predominantly nausiated smell that you can't be outside," said Dave Henderson.

Henderson has lived in Darien for two years, and says he would have never bought his home had he known about the smell.

"We did not move up to wisconsin to smell that smell...yes it's buyer beware, but it was sold under false pretenses," said Henderson.

The Walworth County Zoning Committee tabled the issue at this month's meeting and asked Bird's Eye to bring more data next month. The committee will weight pH levels, suspended solids in the lagon, and the number of complaints to see if the problem is getting better.

Cotter says complaints are one factor the committee will use to gauge whether the problem has been eliminated. Anyone that's still smelling the odor is asked to reach out to Cotter via his email: mcotter@co.walworth.wi.us

The permit Bird's Eye has through the county expires in November.

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