POSTED: Thursday, February 14, 2013 - 9:30pm
UPDATED: Friday, February 15, 2013 - 10:16pm
Scotlandville, LA (NBC33) — The odor that caused three schools to evacuate is still there a week later. Many Scotlandville residents claim it has made them sick, but none of the experts know what caused the smell, or where it comes from.
"I know there's some that say that they are working hard to find out," said Greg Mitchell, "but we're still in the blind."
The air in the University Place subdivision smells of natural gas, strong enough to burn one's nostrils. one resident said she has felt embarrassed at work, because the smell stayed on her clothes after her half-hour commute.
They first noticed the smell the night of Wednesday, February 6th, a full 36 hours before three nearby schools decided it was bad enough to tell all their students to go home.
"They moved the school children out," Eddie Credit said, "and they're up above us, and didn't move us or didn't give us no kind of information on where this was coming from or what it is."
Credit was the first person to ask for help, early on the morning of the 7th.
"I talked to one of the officers, and I told him I didn't want to disturb the neighborhood at that time of morning," Credit said. "But if he would get one of his officers to come down Mills Avenue to Avenue M to check out the smell, that he could get more information out to the authorities."
But the smell is doing more than disturbing the neighborhood.
"It's harmful to your health," said Mamie Mitchell. "I woke up on Thursday morning (the 7th), coughing, nauseated; I wanted to vomit and all this."
"It was such (a) strong smell," Credit stated, "I'm still kind of suffering from a sore throat from it."
"My mother's on oxygen all the time, 24/7, so it's really hard for her to breathe as it is with her medical condition," said Laquintin Bell. "But then she has to endure this, too."
East Baton Rouge leaders believe the smell is coming from the North Wastewater Treatment Plant, or nearby. The same plant that is so foul, the city-parish is willing to pay approximately $6 million to buy neighbors out of their homes.
"We're gettin' a double-whammy here," Credit said.
DEQ agents were back in the neighborhood Thursday morning, but still cannot identify the smell or its source.
"For a while it's stronger at a certain point, but then it lightens up," Greg Mitchell said. "And then it'll get stronger and then it'll lighten up.
"I had a lady, told me the other day it was all the way in Baker at one point, because of the way the wind shifted."
Mamie Mitchell said she discussed the odor with a supervisor at the treatment plant.
"He stated that it was not anything on the sewer plant part," she recalled. "But there was a few leaks of some (type), but he said it wasn't anything bad."
Now the neighbors are directing their anger at City Hall.
"No elected official has come back to find out what has taken place," Greg Mitchell said.
They even joked about a conspiracy, but their strong words for Mayor Holden and the Metro Council had serious undertones.
"You all are killing people back here," Mamie Mitchell said of them. "It's worse now with the gas; you killed them already with the sewer plant, and now you got the gas.
"So maybe that's what the city is out to do. Since they been said they have to buy out two, four, or five houses back here, whatever they have to do, maybe they said, 'let's put the gas loose on them and that'll finish them all off.'
"If you're trying to kill us, you can't do it, god is not ready for us yet"
The mayor's office had no comment, but people there did not know that DEQ was back at the site Thursday until NBC33 told them.
UPDATE: "We have been dealing with this for a few days," said David Guillory, head of the Department of Public Works. "it's not coming from the plant."