San Benito County

Smelly odor in Hollister causes community uproar

Tomatoes cause horrific stench in Hollister

HOLLISTER, Calif. - A smelly odor is plaguing one Central Coast city. It's so bad some residents in Hollister say they won't even go outside and others want to move out

The strong smell is coming from ponds that hold tomato waste from San Benito Foods, a cannery. During this time of year, bacteria eats up the waste. The problem this year is there is more waste than there is bacteria.

Residents told NewsChannel 5 the smell has never gotten this bad.

"It smells really horrible. It feels like your nose is like burning off or
something," said Genevieve Egbert.

So bad that when Egbert isn't on her way out, she's holed up inside her

"You've got to close all the windows. You can't leave the doors open for
very long," she said.

That's because the smell of decomposing tomato waste from the ponds and
sewer pipes is blowing into her neighborhood.

"Horrible," said Stacey Hungeat. "It smells like sewer waste, just not

For new Hollister residents like Hungeat, she questions whether
living here was a good move.

"When there's more waste than there is bacteria to handle, that is what
you smell, the decomposing tomato waste," said Manuel Molina, project
manager for Veolia Water. "It's the same smell you would smell in your
refrigerator if you let a tomato sit in there forever."

Veolia Water is contracted by the city to operate the Industrial Waste
Water Treatment Facility. Just Friday, the cannery discharged two million
gallons of tomato waste into the ponds.

From mid-July to mid-October, the facility receives the waste water from
the San Benito Foods tomato processing facility.

"The flows coming in had come in more quickly than the bacteria are able
to assimilate to that new environmental condition," Molina said.

Due to the lack of rain, the bacteria is having a hard time playing catch-up, causing the stench. Even though the process happens every year, Egbert said the smell is a lot worse this year.

"I kind of want to move to be honest. Move out of here so it doesn't have
this effect anymore," she said.

Plant operators said residents will have to deal with the stench for at least another week.

San Benito Foods is a big economic resource to the Hollister community,
bringing in more than 300 jobs.

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