The foul stench that has invaded parts of Ahwatukee and left some residents complaining of its harmful effects now has the attention of Maricopa County air quality officials.
But that doesn’t mean they’ll figure out where it’s coming from – or whether they can stop the source if they do.
“If we can find it, then we have to figure out who regulates it, whether it’s us or DEQ or the Department of Health,” said Bob Huhn, communications supervisor for the Maricopa County Air Quality Department, referring to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.
The stench has bedeviled some neighborhoods for several months.
“My son woke up this morning throwing up. I woke up My wife woke up. It was just disgusting,” said Joe Lanzo, who said the stench in his neighborhood near Desert Vista High School seemed to start between midnight and 4 a.m. and hang until at least 9 a.m.
On Monday, Dec. 4, Lanzo said the smell – which has been off-and-on in his neighborhood for at least two months – was off again all weekend.
Neal Bernoff, who lives near 40th Street and Chandler Boulevard, said last week his wife called 911 and a Phoenix firefighter who answered the call blamed it on South Mountain Freeway construction.
“I don’t know where it’s coming from, but it’s a horrible sulpher-like smell,” Bernoff said, noting that he and his wife are elderly and that his wife has a medical condition he fears will be aggravated by the odor.
Dustin Krugel, a spokesman for the Arizona Department of Transportation, said, “Nothing associated with South Mountain Freeway construction would produce the odor you’ve described.”
Huhn said ADOT officials told his department that crews have not been working on any sewer lines around the freeway’s path.
Huhn said nine complaints have been filed with his department and that the area most affected by the smell appears to be bordered by Chandler Boulevard and Pecos Road and 40th and 32nd streets. He said inspectors would conduct monitoring at night.
He added that the smell could come from a lake or canal, though there is no evidence yet of either being the source. He said there has been a stubborn mulch fire burning in the area of Durango Street and 27th Avenue, though it’s unclear if the stench from that would travel as far south as Ahwatukee.
Huhn said tracing the source could be difficult, especially if it comes from outside Maricopa County, where his department would have no jurisdiction.
State DEQ spokesman Sam Nuanez wasn’t sure if his department had received any complaints, but added, “I live in Ahwatukee and I haven’t smelled anything.”
People who pick up a foul odor can file a complaint with the county at 602-372-2703 or cleanairmakemore.com and with the state at legacy.azdeq.gov/function/compliance/complaint.html.