Low-cost fertilizer has people plugging their noses near Springfield

WILLARD, Mo. (KY3) - An unbearable smell made people in some parts of Willard hold their breath when they walked outside Thursday.

"Personally, I think it smells like chicken poop." said Willard resident Brandy Willis. "[I am] very sick and tired of it, it's pretty bad."

Others in Willard said an offensive odor has been hanging around for a few days. Many believe it could be a biosolid; in this case, a substance farmers use for fertilizer.

The city of Springfield distributes about 5,000 tons of biosolids a year to surrounding farms and communities. Clean Water Services Superintendent Brian Wirth said there are tanks that filter human waste three times, turning it into a biosolid.

"All of the solids get separated out in the treatment process end up in these digesters," said Wirth. "Then it's bacteria and different microbes and bugs decomposing that, so at the end, biosolids really is mostly dead bacteria and bugs"

The biosolids are a smelly, but cost-effective alternative to fertilizer.

"You know, 80 acres or whatever, they'd probably have to spend thousands of dollars on fertilizers, if not ten thousand dollars, and we're essentially offering it to them at no cost," said Wirth.

He said the city typically tries to avoid distributing the biosolids near or upwind from neighborhoods or areas that will have a lot of people around.

Neighbors aren't sure if that was the case in Willard this week.

"I don't know if it's just right now, it just really stands out," said Willis. "It needs to go. It's too hot and it smells too bad."