Foxbank residents 'at wits' end' over landfill odor, fear health issues

A truck cruises through the Berkeley County landfill on Tuesday.

While Berkeley County leaders are working to eliminate the unprecedented landfill odor in Moncks Corner, residents living in nearby Foxbank Plantation are concerned about the possible long-term effects of breathing in the stench.

“We are in a desperate spot right now as residents,” said homeowner Marki Williams.

A resident of Foxbank for the last decade, Williams said she believes the community is “being slowly poisoned” by frequent exposure to hydrogen sulfide gas; she said residents are at their “wits’ end.”

“We are worried for the health of our families,” she wrote in an email to the Berkeley Independent.

Williams said she’s also worried about home values dropping as a result.

Fellow Foxbank homeowner, Liliya Dimitrov, described the odor as a “rotten, burning sensation” she awakens to each morning. A 12-year resident of the community, the mother of two told the Journal Scene in a separate email that she’s especially fearful of her children’s exposure to the smell. She likened it to a ghost she said “creeps into my safe haven, my home.”

“I am supposed to protect them, keep them safe and healthy, but this is beyond my ‘momma’ powers,” Dimitrov said in the email.

Dimitrov even went so far as to compare her and other area residents as “lab rats” under an experiment that she said she hopes “doesn’t turn into another Flint, Michigan.” In 2014 the Michigan town experienced a water crisis due to lack of proper treatment of the area’s source of drinking water—the Flint River.

According to Mary Ann Smalls, the smell comes and goes and she increasingly detects it when she drives further into Moncks Corner, closer to the facility. While walking the neighborhood on Tuesday, with her dog on a leash and grandson in a stroller, Smalls said she most recently noticed the odor on Monday evening.

"Even last night when I came back (home) around 6 p.m., there was a pungent odor," Smalls said.

While some of her neighbors have posted to the Foxbank Plantation Facebook page complaining about headaches and other physical symptoms they've blamed on the odor, Smalls revealed she hasn't felt more than the occasional nausea from it, though she explained that could be because she doesn't live as close as others to the landfill.

Regardless, it's a foulness Smalls said she's never smelled before in her six years living in Foxbank - that it's different than the typical "landfill" odor area residents are used to.

"The smell's nauseating sometimes it's so strong," Smalls said.

But she considered the odor the only downside to the neighborhood - one she promoted as a friendly and secure place, with many law enforcement officers also living there, and hopes the issue can be solved soon.

"We love our neighborhood; it's a very safe place," Smalls said.

Unlike Foxbank residents, the county is hopeful the odor issue can be squelched and has not noted any potential health-related issues tied to its inhalation. The county first alerted the public to the odor in January, and since then has continued to implement various measures to help eradicate the problem at its core.

County staff has said they think the smell is a result of heavy rainfall the area received throughout December and January. The stagnant water or “leachate” at the Highway 52 facility is created from precipitation that’s percolated through permeable materials at the property, according to a county press release.

Berkeley County Water and Sanitation has conducted various measures at the site and in Foxbank Plantation to keep the odor at bay and ultimately squelch it out. Monitors are in place for detecting the source of hydrogen sulfide, and crews wearing monitors also walk the subdivision streets each weekday morning, according to the county.

Water and Sanitation staff are keeping track of all the public's calls that come in about the issue and request callers not only note the date, time and location of the smell but also describe the nature of it.

The county said the S.C. Department of Environmental and Health Control is aware of the odor and in the process of reviewing a county report on it to decide what additional measures should occur at the landfill.

According to Laura Renwick, DHEC public information officer, in an email to the Berkeley Independent on Wednesday, the area where the odor is strongest is Cell 13. She said a monitor has been placed there and in the tree line heading toward Foxbank, among other locations. Renwick said the county is frequently updating her agency on the issue.

"They will continue to monitor the situation and are reporting back to DHEC on a weekly basis while the efforts continue," she said.

To report the odor, call the county at 843-719-2386.

I've been a newspaper reporter for 8 yrs, covering everything from the President's arrival on Air Force One to sports, murder trials, a cat stuck in a wall, death of a UFO expert & meeting Nick Jonas (who disappointingly snubbed me). Send me story ideas!