The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa


February 5, 2007

Why have odor complaints declined?

There has been a fair amount of discussion since we printed a story about Clinton’s odor hotline under the banner headline “Odor complaints decrease.” All of it has centered around a very important question: Why?

Why are there less complaints than in previous years? Is it, as the companies responsible would say, because there are better odor control measures in place? Or is it, as a few citizens have attested, because many people see calling the odor hotline as ineffective and simply stopped calling? Or, is it some confusing amalgam of the two, with some of the reduction efforts working and few people noticing since the remaining stink is still pretty strong?

Either way, the fact that some parts of Clinton can — and often do — smell very foul is entirely undeniable. What can be done about that is another matter altogether. Whether something should be done is a matter to be talked about, with the powers that be undertaking a public cost/benefit analysis.

We could begin to hazard a few guesses, amateur theories and blind suggestions. For example, it is unlikely that city-level government will be able to do much to change the way these established companies do business, meaning the state or federal government would need to be involved. And we’re assuming the priority there would be on pollutants, not just things that smell foul (remember, just cause it stinks doesn’t mean it’s harmful, and just cause it’s harmful doesn’t mean it stinks).

Large companies typically don’t engage in expensive projects just for the sake of the common good. It usually has something to do with a competitive business edge or a government mandate. Not to say it wouldn’t happen, but some of the smells local companies make are all but unavoidable.

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