This is a genuine question: does Kalamazoo stink or is it just me?

Every day I drive to Kalamazoo from Allegan and typically there isn't anything significant to note during my drive. However, in recent weeks as I've both been driving into and out of downtown Kalamazoo via BUS-131 I thought I noticed a funky smell.

I thought maybe I was driving near a landfill and the wind must have been blowing right in my direction. I thought maybe there was a field of cattle tucked away nearby or perhaps the truck in front of me was hauling something nasty? But then I stumbled across a local news article that has me thinking it's the city itself that stinks!

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It turns out there is a long history of mysterious smells on Kalamazoo's north side and it all points to Graphic Packaging International and the Kalamazoo Water Reclamation plant. According to WWMT, "Residents who live near the paper mill and the city's wastewater treatment plan on Kalamazoo's north side have complained about the foul smells for over a decade."

As someone who grew up in Allegan, this is news to me! Although I do remember similar scenarios as a child when we'd drive past the paper mills in Otsego, or "Ot-stinko", as we lovingly referred to it. It seems this has been a constant issue in Kalamazoo too. So much so that the EPA and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services started investigating local air quality in 2020.

The smell appears to be the result of hydrogen sulfide, which is a product of natural sources. Exposure to this gas can cause damage to the cardiovascular, respiratory, and nervous systems depending on the amount of exposure. A report on the short-term affects of this odor found the smell to not be harmful to nearby residents, but the results of a long-term study have been delayed. There is no expected timeline for the release of the study.

Have you noticed this sulfur-like smell in downtown Kalamazoo?

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