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Horrible smell from landfill overload lingers around Elmwood Place, waits on deadline set by city

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CINCINNATI -- People in Elmwood Place and Carthage may hold their noses just to walk outside in their own backyards. 

Resident Jamie Turnbow said it's been bad for more than a year, and at times, it's simply unbearable.

"You can smell it everywhere you go. In Elmwood by the railroad tracks, by MacGregor, it comes all through our house," she said. 

The odor comes from Center Hill Landfill, located on Center Hill Road just west of Carthage. Winds take the smell northwest, across Mill Creek and into Elmwood Place.

Now at the end of a contract with the City of Cincinnati, and without a state license, the operator wants to shape up the site. At the end of January, a decision must be reached: sell or move the compost. 

The operator tried to process as much material as he could, and planned to continue the hurry through January. The overload left piles during the anaerobic decomposition process. That's when they're likely to smell. As the piles are moved around, the odor ramps up and becomes difficult to control or mask.

"It smells like raw sewage, honestly, there is no other way to describe it," said Roy Stewart, a nearby resident. "When I walk to the bank and I have to cover my face just to make it through town, it's just terrible."

"Anaerobic organisms exude smelly gas as a byproduct of their exertions. And because of the colder conditions, weed seeds and plant pathogens aren't destroyed," according to Cathy Cromell of the National Gardening Association. 

Anaerobic composition allows for quicker waste digestion than the aerobic method, but each time a trash pile is processed, the smell takes over and creates a problem for surrounding neighborhoods. 

"Anaerobic digesters are basically carbon conversion tools," Craig Frear of Washington State University said. 

They take the organic carbon from waste and turn it into useful resources like methane for fuel and electricity.

Officials of the health department told Center Hill Landfill that the situation is unacceptable and they've issued several warnings. The owner said he's working to sell his materials, but has trouble with theft and vandalism at the business.

If the owner falls short of deadline, it could mean more stinky days for the residents of Elmwood Place. 

WCPO reporter Natasha Williams contributed to this report.

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