- Associated Press - Sunday, May 13, 2018

A South Carolina city trying to get a handle on smells related to a chicken plant has set up a hotline so people can file complaints about offensive odors that draw complaints from visitors and residents.

Callers to the code enforcement hotline in West Columbia are asked to include the date and time of the offensive odor; what it smelled like, where they were and how long they smelled it; and what they thought was the source.

West Columbia’s Riverwalk Park at the Congaree River is an attraction for visitors and residents. But a gag-inducing odor from the House of Raeford chicken plant can force people to retreat indoors at times.

“It smells a mixture of raw sewage” as if “you let your garbage can sit inside your living room for a week with no AC on and stick your head in the middle of it,” Tyler Driggers, who likes to float on the Congaree and walk along the park, told WIS-TV.

So the city set up a hotline and an online form for people to complain about odors that emanate from the property lines. If the city gets enough complaints, an inspector will investigate, said Tem Miles, West Columbia’s mayor pro tem. Companies could be fined or declared a public nuisance if the odor isn’t fixed, he said.

“We want to know when it smells and what’s going out there at the time,” Miles said in an interview Sunday with The Associated Press.

In October, the city council first approved fines for odors, such as those emanating from the chicken plant. Earlier this year, the council amended an ordinance to address odors.

North Carolina-based House of Raeford tells WIS-TV that it’s “continually working on ways to decrease any potential problems with odors.”

The company is one of Lexington County’s largest employers, and the city has no interest in forcing it out of business, Miles said.

He said he believes an uptick in complaints about the odors might be traced to a change in how the company has to handle byproducts such as fats, oils and grease. The company reached an agreement with the city of Columbia to haul such byproducts off the property rather than piping them into Columbia’s treatment system, he said.

People with complaints can call 803-794-3506 ext. 805, or they can fill out a form online by clicking here .

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