Residents near plant sickened by odor
Neenah company insists chemical not from facility
By Duke Behnke
Published June 07, 2004
NEENAH Diane Schanke said a glue-like smell emanating
from the Southpark Industrial Center is so strong that
it permeates her garage and makes her 8-year-old son vomit.
When he steps out into the garage, he comes running
back in with his hand over his mouth to run to the bathroom
and throw up, Schanke, 2413 Brantwood Drive, said
Bob Dalton, 2428 Woodland Terrace, said he was mowing
his lawn earlier last week when the wind shifted and carried
the smell to his yard, making him sick. I had to
go inside, he said.
Residents and city officials blame Outlook Label Systems,
2411 Industrial Drive, for the odor, but the company says
vinyl acetate, the chemical believed to cause the odor,
isnt used in its manufacturing processes.
Outlook Label produces pressure-sensitive labels and
flexible packaging. Vinyl acetate is used to make glues
for the packaging and building industries.
Joseph Baksha, president of Outlook Group Corp., said
there was a remote possibility the odor was caused by
a reaction of chemicals used by Outlook Label. To be good
neighbors, he said the company spent more than $100,000
to rebuild its oxidizer and raise its exhaust stack.
The oxidizer is designed to control solvent emissions
by burning them at a high temperature.
Weve tested the unit, and its destroying
almost 100 percent at this point in time, Baksha
said. If there was any possibility that chemical
was coming out of our facility, there is no way it is
coming out now.
Residents in the area are still documenting the smell,
however. Schanke said she noticed it twice Friday and
five times since last Tuesday. It is still there,
she said. There is no doubt about it.
Mayor George Scherck said the city has taken the problem
seriously. Scherck, City Atty. James Godlewski, Public
Health Director Judith Smolarek and Sanitarian Don Day
all have made trips to the area to investigate.
Neenah also has sought help from the state Department
of Natural Resources and the Occupational Safety and Health
Scherck said the DNR sampled emissions from Outlook Label
and found it in compliance with air-quality standards.
Neenah since has requested the DNR conduct a more comprehensive
Until the result is known, Scherck said he is at a loss
about what to do.
We have brought in every state agency that has
any authority here, and we have brought in every city
official who has any area of authority, he said.
I am not sure what the solution is right now.
Marge Bates, 2421 Woodland Terrace, said the odor first
was noticed in April 2003. She said it is dependent upon
wind conditions and that it can smother her neighborhood
at any time, day or night 6½ days a week.
She said her neighbors detected the smell on 112 days
within a 10-month period. She said the smell was strong
enough to restrict outdoor activities on 61 of those days
and to sicken residents on 20 of those days.
Just working out in our yards could cause migraine-type
headaches and retching, Bates said.
Linda Morey, 2417 Brantwood Drive, said the smell descends
upon her yard.
It just hangs there, she said. I cant
be outside. I have to go inside.