Southside residents complain of smell from industrial zone

March 24, 2019
Councilwoman Jennifer Wheeler, Mayor Steve Williams, representatives of HPD, HFD, Public Works, Development and Planning, and the Water Quality Board join with Southside residents for a community walk to address concerns in the area on Wednesday in Huntington.

HUNTINGTON — Several residents of Huntington’s Southside neighborhood said they have smelled an overwhelming foul odor possibly coming from an area off 8th Avenue zoned as an industrial district.

Members of the South Side Neighborhood Organization began discussing the smell on the group’s Facebook page, prompting a response from City Council member Jennifer Wheeler, who represents a portion of the neighborhood and serves on the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission. During a walk of the neighborhood with Mayor Steve Williams on Wednesday, Wheeler said it was worth investigating the source of the odor.

Residents said on some days the smell prevents them from sitting on their porches, and they believe the odor is coming from Valicor, an industrial waste treatment plant off 8th Avenue.

Wheeler said the company is located within an “I-1 General Industrial District,” which provides an area for industrial activity that does not harm surrounding land, businesses and homes. City Planner Shae Strait said the Planning and Zoning Commission has the authority to regulate any discharge of noxious odors within the industrial district.

However, there are several companies in the zoning district that could be the source of the smell, said Ken Bentfeld, senior vice president of operations for Valicor in Huntington. There is also a paint company and a specialty fastener company, he said.

Valicor is an Ohio-based industrial wastewater treatment plant that only accepts nonhazardous waste, Bentfeld said. The plant recycles used oil and pretreats industrial wastewater,

which doesn’t give off any chemical odors, he said. The plant is highly regulated by both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, he said.

“We take up waters that would otherwise end up in a landfill,” Bentfeld said. “We essentially service the West Virginia industry with responsible waste disposal, and we are in full compliance with our permit.”

Bentfeld said there’s a misconception the plant accepts or treats fracking wastewater, which it does not. Fracking wastewater requires storage in deep wells in a process that faces strict oversight because of the environmental risks.

“We are not permitted to do so,” he said. “In fact, we had a visit from the U.S. EPA several years ago just to assure we aren’t taking it. They went through all our receiving logs to see if we are being truthful.”

Bentfeld said Valicor has been located in the Southside neighborhood since 2012.

Also on Wednesday, Williams and other city officials toured several blocks around the neighborhood as part of the “Walks With the Mayor” series. The series of walks is the first this spring, during which Williams will visit each of the nine City Council districts. The city has conducted 66 walks since the initiative launched; the first was in May 2015.

A previous walk scheduled March 18 to tour Westmoreland was postponed for the funeral service for former Huntington Mayor Bobby Nelson. A new date for the Westmoreland walk has not been announced.

The next walk with the mayor will be Wednesday, March 27, in the Highlawn neighborhood. Residents are asked to gather at McClelland Park at 5:30 p.m.

Travis Crum is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. He may be reached by phone at 304-526-2801.