NEW ORLEANS (WGNO)— Irish Channel neighbors say there’s a strange smell they think is toxic, but what does the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality have to say about the smell?

For the past three years, the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality has received nearly 2,000 complaints of a foul smell from 400 separate households.

While neighbors say something still smells suspicious, even though DEQ says the smell is not dangerous.

What’s that smell in the Irish Channel air?

“It is a petrochemical smell, asphalt is the main thing, tar, sometimes it smells like a magic marker,” Justin Vittitow, Irish Channel Neighbor said.

Day and night for three years, neighbors like Vittitow have been putting up with the foul smell.

“We can’t enjoy being outside. We can’t enjoy being on the porch. We can’t even enjoy being in our homes, without smelling the heavy fumes,” he said.

Vittiow is part of the group, Join For Clean Air, which has raised its concerns to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality. Neighbors say the stench is coming from a mile away, across the Mississippi River at a facility in Harvey, which stores asphalt.

LDEQ investigated the BWC facility with temporary air monitors.

In a 2020 report, they say “Irregular but strong wastewater and asphalt-like odors were detected downwind of BWC’s terminal.”

In a 2021 report, they say, “No widespread odors were noted 26 times in Uptown New Orleans, but only 8 times were odors noted.”

Today by phone, DEQ spokespeople said they were never able to detect the source of the smell, but will keep responding to complaints, but they don’t believe the smell poses a risk to human health or the environment.

But a scientist with Join For Clean Air, Dr. Kimberly Terrell says there are health risks.

“The biggest concern is a group of toxins that are associated with petrochemical products, especially heavy chemicals like asphalt. These toxins are known to cause cancer. There is absolutely no way you can load barges with hot asphalt in the middle of a city without causing serious health risks to the people who live nearby,” Dr. Kimberly Terrell said.

In addition to the Irish Channel, neighbors in Harvey near the facility have also been complaining about the stinky smell.

Local leaders like City Council member Lesli Harris and Senator Royce Duplessis are aware of the issue and are working to help the residents.

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