Keene residents are worried about smell coming from landfill


Some residents in Keene, North Dakota told KX News something stinks in the area, and they also said it’s not only a nuisance, but they fear it might be hazardous to their health.

Now,  they feel they are in a position to do something about it.

The Blue Buttes facility is owned and operated by Republic Services, and it is a solid waste disposal site for the oil industry.

According to McKenzie County Planning and Zoning minutes from January 14, 2019, 900 tons per day are being hauled into the facility by 20 to 30 trucks.

Ninety-nine percent of the waste going into the facility is drill cuttings while the rest is spill clean-up.

Michelle Schoenwald and Kathay Skarda, who live near it, said the facility has a bad smell coming from it.

“There is a very strong diesel smell,” said Schoenwald.

Skarda said the diesel odor also has a rancid smell mixed in with it, like “rotten eggs”. 

Both said that on a warm day when the air is blowing just right the air is almost unbreathable.

“I get strong headaches. I am very congested like up through the temples. It’s like a constant pounding,” said Schoenwald. 

Skarda added, “You can’t even sleep with your bedroom door open or your window open, because it stinks outside so badly”.

Benzene, a component of diesel, is a carcinogen, and both feel that the smell might also be a health hazard. 

“What really concerns me is the little kids. . . the kids five miles down the road.” said Skarda.

The Keene residents feel the issue is that drill shavings that come off the rigs are wet, and they would like to see them dried before they hit the landfill site. 

“Remove a lot of the wetness and make it considerably drier. Even though the smell is still there, it’s not as strong and that makes a huge difference,” said Schoenwald. 

The North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality, Waste Management Division said the facility is inspected monthly and it is in compliance with the state’s environmental standards. 

The state’s Air Quality Division said  the smell may be a nuisance to residents, but according to tests that have been conducted in the area it raises no alarming health issues. 

However, Republic Services has requested the McKenzie Commission and Planning and Zoning Board approve an amendment to their conditional use permit, so they can increase the height of the landfill by two million cubic yards.

Skarda who is a county commissioner said this is an opportunity for residents voices and concerns

to be heard.

“When they ask to change the conditional use permit , we can address any other issues that are with that condition use,” said Skarda.

Residents can ask the commission not to approve the permit unless the smell is addressed by Republic Services, and hopefully, things can get back to the way they use to be.

“You could BBQ outside. . . leave your windows open. . . you could go play football with the kids,” said Skarda.

Republic Services application for a conditional use permit amendment was to be heard by the McKenzie County Planning and Zoning Board May 13th, but that hearing has been Tabled according to the county’s website. 

KX News reached out to Republic Services for comment several times for this story,but there was no response. 

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