The smell of a “dead animal” wafts through a Texas neighborhood

ELGIN, Texas (KXAN) — A woman said the smell is so bad it’s keeping her from inviting people into her home. It’s a smell, she said, that wafts for miles in The Arbors at Elgin’s Dogwood Creek subdivision.

Neighbors said it was coming from the Darling Ingredients plant in Bastrop on FM 2336, just off Highway 95. People around him said it had been going on for years.

Matthew Novelli, who lives in The Arbors, said he likes to go out for a run while pushing his 16-month-old son, Matthew Jr., in his stroller, but knows that at any moment he could smell a musty whiff of what is carried from above.

“It’s disgusting,” Novelli said. “It smells like a dead animal.”

Novelli and other neighbors KXAN spoke with believe the smell is coming from Darling Ingredients or Dar Pro Solutions, a plant about six miles south in Bastrop.

A spokesperson for the plant wrote in a statement to KXAN that the facility processes byproducts from chicken slaughter into ingredients to be used to make animal feed and pet food, and also processes used cooking oil to make diesel.

People at The Arbors describe the smell as burning chicken feathers, or as one neighbor put it, “it’s just not normal.”

None of that slowed Novelli, who said he wasn’t all that bothered by the smell.

“If it’s a skunk, you smell skunk for a minute and it’s gross, then you move on and then it goes away,” he said. “It’s not blinding or anything. It’s not overwhelming.”

But over the years, others were concerned enough to complain to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

According to TCEQ records, odor complaints at the plant date back at least 20 years. Since the beginning of 2020, the agency has registered 47 complaints from people in the surrounding communities. All were investigated, TCEQ said, but none during that period resulted in a violation.

In a statement, a TCEQ spokesperson explained the challenges for investigators, writing that “odors were not detected during many of the odor surveys.”

When the odors were discovered, the agency’s investigation reports said they were “not of an intensity or frequency that would constitute a violation.”

No one from Darling Ingredients would speak to KXAN on camera, but in a statement, a spokesperson wrote, “we have a comprehensive process, protocols and environmental expectations that are part of our daily operations.”

The spokesperson also wrote that Darling Ingredients is working with all regulatory agencies to ensure the facility is in full compliance. The spokesman added that the plant has invested more than $3 million in improvements to eliminate odors, including a device that destroys odors.

Novelli thinks there may be no escaping the smell and it may just be a fact of life in the neighborhood.

“I grew up in Galveston and Texas City was there with the plants and people dealing with it,” Novelli said.

A TCEQ spokesman said the last time Darling Ingredients received an odor violation was in 2008 for nuisance odors and a permit violation. It was solved with the installation of new equipment.

Darling Ingredients employs nearly 80 people.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *