LAYTON -- Landfills always have an unpleasant smell, but lately the odor coming from the landfill off Hill Field Road has been more than some residents can take.
"I've never smelled it in that area like I have this year," said Wendy Hansen, who has lived near the landfill for close to 22 years. "At first you're like, 'What is that smell?' It's nasty stuff."
Hansen, who noticed the smell beginning around April, is not alone.
Nathan Rich, CEO and executive director at Wasatch Integrated Waste Management District, said his office usually receives one odor complaint per year. This year, there have been several complaints about the stench.
"It's always a struggle operating a landfill so close to a residential area, since the houses just get closer and closer," Rich said. "We do spend a substantial level of effort to be as good a neighbor as possible, but it is interesting this year. I don't know if the odors are necessarily stronger than they have been in the past, but this year I have had an unusual number of odor complaints."
Rich said he's noticed a more pungent smell as well, so waste district workers are taking steps to control the odor.
"We are taking it seriously," Rich said. "We've done a lot over last two months to try to improve the situation. We've placed a lot of additional cover on the landfill over the active garbage."
Half of the trash delivered to the facility is burned to produce steam used to power the facility and parts of Hill Air Force Base.
Garbage that is not burned gets buried, which produces a methane gas as it decomposes. That gas is collected, then sold and shipped to Hill as compressed gas to produce electricity for Rocky Mountain Power.
The gas, which emanates from the garbage after about one year, also stinks.
Rich said that for the last month the district has been working to make sure the gas system is working. Workers made more collection points and increased the amount of times they monitor those points.
"We typically do it monthly, now we are doing it twice weekly," Rich said. "We've actually made some pretty substantial improvements and I expect the odor has gotten better the last three weeks."
Rich said controlling the odor is difficult when working with an active landfill. The district uses ash from the burned garbage to cover the landfill each day, and on Sept. 1 will put a temporary cover over the garbage as well. The high-density sheet of plastic, which will cost around $100,000, will cover five acres.
Rich said that two years ago, the district put the same type of cover over 22 acres, and that had a substantial effect on limiting the stink.
Hansen wonders also if the smell could come from the piles of compost at the facility. Those piles come from recycled green waste and can smell very similar to a farm.
"We're right up on the hill," Hansen said. "You go out on our deck and you look across the field and there are compost piles. I do not remember the piles being so big."
Rich said that the compost piles could be higher this year, but bigger piles would not produce the odor that people are complaining about.
"If somebody can stand on deck and see compost piles, then they will be able to smell them," Rich said. "That's just how it is. The odor (people are complaining about) could be a little bit of both (the landfill and the compost piles). When odor complaints started coming in, we looked hard at both areas. It seems to me that the larger concern, the more perturbing odor, is coming from the landfill."
Rich said he hopes the temporary cover will keep that odor from escaping and bothering the neighbors.