Residents along Rowley Hollow in Cheektowaga's Bellevue section say they've tried spending the day outside this spring, and it's tough on their noses.
"The smell is brutal," said David Krzemien, adding that a noxious odor has gotten so bad that he and his wife sometimes have to go inside and close their windows.
"It just started happening in December and January," he said.
Cayuga Creek is located behind the houses on Rowley Hollow, and across the creek is Schultz Landfill. Two other old landfills are near Schultz, Land Reclamation and Old Land Reclamation. Residents have complained to the town and the state Department of Environmental Conservation about the odor. Some say the odor smells like rotting garbage; others report a strong chemical odor.
Joseph Bartoszek has lived on the road for 26 years, and has smelled an odor occasionally through the years.
"Now, just lately, it started up," he said. "I don't get it all the time. If the winds blow the right way, it will get you."
Krzemien's wife, Juli, is secretary to the Cheektowaga Town Board. Part of her job is taking complaints from residents. She herself has complained about the odor to Council Member Thomas M. Johnson Jr., and he has written the DEC asking for a complete investigation into the odor.
"I gave them a list of potential causes," he said.
He said they could include:
Cayuga Creek could be conveying pollution downstream.
The containment of the BFI/Land Reclamation landfill may have been breached.
The Schultz Landfill may contain recent or old municipal refuse that has been exposed or penetrated by drainage.
Excavations in an old Depew landfill opposite Zurbrick Road may be washing down.
Excavations for the Broadway reconstruction and bridge removal may have exposed old waste or sulfurous soils that are washing through the drainage ditch that runs to Cayuga Creek next to Schultz Landfill.
The DEC has had several investigators in the neighborhood. "We've been out several times trying to figure out where the odor is coming from," said DEC spokeswoman Meaghan Boice-Green. "We haven't been able to pinpoint it."
Inspectors were at Rowley Hollow this week, she said. They haven't smelled a heavy chemical odor, but they have detected something out of the ordinary. This week they described it as a musty odor.
"They have tried going to all the possible sources," Boice-Green said. "They'll go to each place until they figure out where it's coming from."
One neighbor called National Fuel to see if the strong odor could be natural gas. The utility checked the neighborhood May 21 and again Thursday morning and did not detect natural gas, said spokeswoman Julie Coppola Cox.