Uncovering the Source: Why Does Kaukauna Stink?

WBAY-TV in Kaukauna, Wis. While Kaukauna has long been renowned for its odor due to the mill, a new fragrance has emerged to annoy inhabitants.

“The second you turn down Haas Road it’s like an overwhelming smell of noxious gas. It almost takes your breath away, especially if you have the windows rolled down,” Sandy Schaubroeck, a Kaukauna resident, said.

Neighborhoods around Hass Road are affected by the rotten egg stench. It came from a newer cell built-in 2018 at the Red Hill

Landfill. The Ahlstrom Munksjo Thimany Paper Plant utilized an industrial dump to dispose of wood fibers.The landfill is constructed according to regulatory requirements, which include a leachate collection system. Leachate generated as waste dewaters is collected in the landfill’s leachate collection system and treated. Collecting leachate helps minimize potential impacts to groundwater. Thilmany also monitors groundwater around the landfill to ensure environmental and human health protection.

The region has witnessed record levels of rain since the cell was built, forcing the wood fibers to decay at an accelerated pace, resulting in the odor.

For many years, residents in the plant’s vicinity have voiced their dissatisfaction in city council meetings, to municipal authorities, and to the mill itself.

Thilmany is still collaborating with the Department of Natural Resources and private companies to limit the odor. Barriers that divide the cell into three sections were recently installed to help keep things dry and eliminate smells.

Lee Hammen, the plant director, believes that they can hide the odor by making modifications.

“We have continued to actively work on this. We have made significant investments and we’ve got a commitment to work to do the things we need to do to minimize the odors as much as possible,” Hammen said. “The city of Kaukauna has been so good to the Thilmany Mill. We have been a part of the community for 140 years and we want to be a part of it for 140 more, and we want to be a good responsible part of this community.”

The human nose can detect sulfur compounds at deficient quantities that are orders of magnitude lower than ambient air guidelines designed to safeguard human health. Thilmany is not obliged to sample ambient air, but its air operating permit requires them to undergo quarterly stack testing for particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, and total reduced sulfur emissions.

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