Greeley strives to put smelly history in past
Joe Collins and Chancie Cavendish have average noses.
“We strive for being average,” Collins, the city’s code enforcement supervisor, joked. In seriousness, having average noses is a state health department requirement for their work as certified odor inspectors.
If their noses aren’t sensitive enough, Collins and Cavendish — the Greeley officials responsible for determining whether smells in Greeley violate city standards — won’t be able to pick up smells Greeley residents call the city to complain about. Too sensitive, and they’ll always pick up smells even after they’ve been filtered through their Nasal Ranger, a handheld tool the team uses to determine if a resident or company has created a stench so strong that it violates city’s smell standards.
If Collins catches a cold, Cavendish is the one who has to investigate a smell. It’s the reason the city has two workers trained to detect odors.
As extensive as the regulations are, Collins and Cavendish don’t have to put them in use as much as inspectors in Greeley did two decades ago.
Greeley has been on the downswing of a smelly reputation for nearly two decades, long after the last feedlot in the city limits closed and after JBS, the city’s meat packing plant, introduced scrubbers and taller stacks to combat the smell.
Collins and Cavendish would know. Every time a resident calls into Greeley’s odor hotline to complain about a stench, they’re the ones who go out to investigate the scene with the Nasal Ranger in hand.
For Collins, who has been with the city for eight years, a smell has never been bad enough in the past decade to result in a full-blown violation that would require the city to intervene and form a plan with the company behind the violation.
The numbers back up the idea that Greeley isn’t as smelly as it was in the past.
In 2016, odor complaints in Greeley hit a record low of three complaints, and only one was confirmed. Last year, the city received 30 complaints and confirmed nine. So far this year, the city has received 14 complaints and confirmed eight.
In the past five years, 2013 saw the highest number of calls at 47. Of those phone calls, six were confirmed.
Those numbers are still lower than what the city experienced in 1997, when the city’s odor hotline opened. In the first year, the city received 650 complaints.
For Greeley Community Development Director Brad Mueller, that means the program is working.
“It’s one of those sets of regulations and processes that’s in the background that you don’t know about because you don’t need to,” he said. “It’s really doing what it was intended to do, which is to discourage odor violations.”