For some residents of the Coleman District, there is simply no question: The pumping of dirty water from the landfill has to stop as soon as possible.
Emotions ran high at an informal neighborhood meeting Thursday night at Dennis Jones' house. They talked about the liquid waste that's pumped through the district's private sewer lines. Residents say the leachate causes a foul odor both within homes and outdoors in their neighborhood. Leachate is the liquid that collects as precipitation runs through the garbage in the landfill.
The five-year contract that lets the North Central Iowa Regional Solid Waste Agency landfill use the Coleman District's sanitary sewer lines is up for renewal. By show of hands the majority of the dozens attending the meeting believe it should not be renewed.
The Coleman District, just south of Fort Dodge, is not part of the city and manages its own sewer and water systems.
"It's time to straighten it out one way or another," said Coleman resident Larry Pingel, adding that he'd be in favor of legal action if necessary to stop the leachate. "We're not going to live this way."
Pingel's wife, Lynda Pingel, is on the Coleman Sewer Board. The waste agency pays the district $300 a month to pump leachate through its sewer lines into the Fort Dodge sewer system and eventually into the public waste water treatment plant.
Lynda Pingel said the stink has been going on for five years or so, ever since the leachate pumping started in response to new environmental regulations. It was at its worst in the summer of 2013, she said.
It has gotten bad again.
Residents have been trying to solve the problem with no success, she said.
"We have had numerous meetings with everyone from the governor's office on down," she said.
Voices were raised at times, and residents accused landfill officials and even sewer board President Ervin Claude of not doing anything about the problem.
Claude, who was at the meeting, said the neighborhood needs to communicate better and deal with the problem in a more organized way.
"I was under the impression there was no problem," Claude said. "Lynda just called me a couple days ago, and she said this is unreal, we've got stink. I was just up at the last month's meeting at the landfill and she said we didn't have any smell."
Claude said the agreement between the district and the waste agency included provisions to protect the district.
Landfill Operations Manager Rob Anderson said at a previous meeting that the lines are flushed with clean water about once a month, and whenever there is a complaint.
"He flushes it for me, but it doesn't last," Lynda Pingel said.
The waste agency used to stop pumping during winter, but now pumps pretty much constantly, whenever its tank fills up, according to Mike Smith of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
Webster County Supervisor Mark Campbell, who is chairman of the waste agency board, said improper handling of leachate was one of the environmental violations that caused the landfill to be referred to the Iowa attorney general's office in September 2013. Campbell was at Thursday night's meeting. He said residents should talk to the agency's attorney, Steve Kersten, about resolving the issues or simply not renewing the agreement.
"If it expires, it expires," Campbell said. "We want to be good neighbors ... Every time you come to us we try to resolve it."
Claude said when the stink comes into a home there's usually a problem with the plumbing. This has come up before in discussions of the issue.
Discharging untreated leachate directly into a sewer is acceptable, according to Smith, provided the proper permits are in place with the treatment plant and sewer owners.
Other options would be for the waste agency to build its own sewer line, or to collect the leachate in a lagoon and then haul it out in tanker trucks. That's what most landfills do, he said.
"Most are usually two to three miles away from town, not close to the sewage line," he said.
Using existing sewer lines is "actually a good way of doing it, as far as landfill operation is concerned," he said.