A year ago, Greg and Kim Herman closed the deal on their split-level house on Oak Hill Drive in Hamburg, joining the ranks of proud first-time homeowners.
Eager to move into their new house, the young couple set to work painting the interior the very night the closing went through.
That same night, a few weeks before they even moved in, they started to smell their American dream gone bad: the stench of rotten eggs was invading their house.
"We found the odor in a closet, and thought maybe the paint was causing the odor," Mrs. Herman said.
They called a plumber, and then another plumber. Nobody seemed to be able to figure out what was causing it. Most agree, though, that the smell is somehow related to the storm sewer.
And one thing the Hermans know for sure is that, as the weather got colder, the smell gets stronger.
"The smell was so bad it would wake me up at four o'clock in the morning and we'd have to open up the basement windows. We had candles burning and Plug-Ins and everything," but the odor persisted, Mrs. Herman said.
One plumber told the couple a hole in the sanitary sewer might be causing the stench. So they spent $3,200 to dig up the lawn and fix the hole.
But the smell persisted.
After a few months, the Hermans compared notes with Jim and Marcia Adamczak, who live a couple doors down on Oak Hill. The Adamczaks have been dealing with the same stench in their house since 1994.
The Adamczaks called village officials seven years ago for help, but they "didn't get any response," Adamczak said. Gerald E. Knoll, village superintendent of public works, said water in the storm sewer was tested and the results came back normal.
So, without an apparent solution, the Adamczaks decided to cope from a distance. While the warmer months seem to keep the smell away, the winters are awful, Adamczak said. So they started spending their winters in Myrtle Beach. "When we came back April 1 this year, we could not believe how bad our house smelled. We had to open all the doors and windows to air it out," he said.
The past several months, Mrs. Herman has made it her mission to track down the source of the stench and eliminate it. She has appealed to officials from the Village of Hamburg, the Erie County Health Department and the state Department of Health.
So far, the village has spent $7,200 to fix the problem, officials said. It brought in a consultant, smoke-tested and dye-tested the sewers, and drilled test wells in three spots to monitor air and water quality.
What village officials and residents know now isn't much different from what they knew before all the testing, which confirmed the presence of hydrogen sulfide, known for its rotten-egg odor. But officials have not been able to find the source.
John R. Finster, a senior public health engineer with the Erie County Health Department, thinks the smell might be coming from the bedrock and fragments of shale..
Finster has determined the smell is somehow linked to the sewer line. Recent testing found one house nearby improperly connected to the storm sewer, but he thinks, given the location of that house, it is not the source of the smell.
He advised village officials to stop trying to track down the source, since it may be impossible to do, and focus instead on eliminating the smell. He offered officials two possible solutions.
The first would involve installing small fans, similar to the kind on a computer, on the downspouts, to draw the smell out before it gets into the houses. That approach would be at the homeowner's expense.
The other one would require digging into the right of way and installing a trap, to try to seal off the storm sewer from the homes. The village would finance this solution.
So far, the village has not decided which path to take.
While officials mull over the situation, the Adamczaks are packing to leave for their annual migration down South for the winter, and the Hermans are bracing themselves for what could be another long, smelly winter.