Milpitas city officials begin studying decades-old foul odor issue

Milpitas residents and travelers passing through town know the decades-old problem plaguing that city... The smell.

But now the city is ponying up nearly $100,000 to find the source and solution for the malodorous enigma.

From the air, it's imperceptible. But back on the ground, the smell smacks you right in the nose.

Milpitas resident Candice Martin says "I moved back here three years ago, and I was like, 'mom, what is that smell? It's horrendous.'"

For several years, Milpitas, a South Bay bedroom community, has been saddled with the moniker "Stinky City."

"In the summer (is when it smells the worst). It smells through this whole area and it's really bad," said Juan Carte, who moved to Milpitas in 2003. Resident Diane Henderson added "I haven't smelled anything that bad in any of the other places I've been to."

Help for the beleaguered residents and guests may be within sight, if not smell, thanks to a pilot program recently approved by the Milpitas city council. Public works director Tony Endah says $85,000 is allocated for an odor monitoring pilot program.

Three probable offending sites are the sewage treatment plant, a compost site, and the Resource Recover Center.

"Is it compost? Is it sewage? But to me I don't smell what the difference is. And that's what our community survey is gonna do it's gonna help us pinpoint exactly what it is we're smelling," said Endah.

There's definitely a stronger order the closer you get to the resource recovery center on the west side of town. But city officials say they don't want to be prejudice in their assessment. So they're going to spend a year putting up fixed sensors and send out volunteers and temporary employees with hand-held devices to identify what the odors are and where they're coming from.

Executives for Republic Services, which operates the recovery center, emailed a statement to Fox 2 which reads in part, "…There are multiple industrial facilities in the area as well as tidal influences…so we're optimistic that a scientific and comprehensive study could lead to important answers….We take pride in being a responsible and compliant operator."

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District is doing its own study of the problem, and will accept requests for proposals in early April.

"We are looking at what we might do to enhance the regulations we currently have written, and if necessary we'll look at if we need to write and new regulations," said Lisa Fasano, a spokeswoman for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.

Most residents are on-board with the pilot program and its cost, hoping a city that already has eye candy can one day pass the smell test.