Something stinks in the county of Sacramento and neighbors are unhappy.
The smell coming from the Sacramento Rendering Company, a private company that processes dead animals and one of the few of its kind left in the region, is impacting the growing Rancho Cordova community.
At a meeting Monday night at the city's Sunrise Elementary School, some 85 neighbors gathered to learn the results of a recent air quality test. Officials with the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District said the air coming out of the plant is safe, with harmful materials registering well below permitted levels.
"What you're smelling is not dangerous to you," Rancho Cordova mayor Donald Terry told ABC10 News. "It is not toxic. It is not going to cause cancer."
Terry is also the Air Quality Management District's board chair.
Additionally, he lives in one of the neighborhoods impacted by the smell.
"I care about figuring out a solution to this because I want to be able to be outside with my kids and with my pets and everybody else," he said. "We just need to figure out how to work with this business."
The Sacramento Rendering Company takes cooking grease from restaurants and dead animals from places like ranches and dairy farms and recycles those into materials like soap, cosmetics, animal feed and biofuel.
That rendering process happens at the plant's Sacramento County location at 11350 Kiefer Boulevard, near Rancho Cordova's growing neighborhoods. While the smell doesn't reach the majority of the city, people impacted live less than three miles away, across open fields.
13 years ago, the plant made $5.5 million worth of odor-control upgrades. Those included adding air scrubbers to help reduce the smell.
Still, neighbors told ABC10, the smell is bad - and usually worst on nights and weekends, when the plant cooks the loads of animal waste it received during the day.
Neighbor Lynn Keay said the air smells "putrid," like rotting meat. "Smells like dead bodies."
"My neighbor said the other day, it's like a really bad barbeque and just a little bit worse," Petra Carter said.
"It'll just hit you as you open the window up," neighbor Rae Anderson said. "It's a pungent smell."
On many nights, they said, the smell is bad and strong enough to drive them inside.
"I'm having a difficult time walking the dogs at night," Carter said. "Getting people over for a barbeque, it makes it really tough."
This has been a problem for years, neighbors said, and they want to find some kind of solution. Many expressed they'd like the plant to cook the animals at different times - and not in the evenings, when they're trying to spend time outdoors with friends and family or open the house to enjoy the cool overnight breeze.
A call to SRC Monday afternoon was not immediately returned.
However, Sacramento County's website says, "Without the rendering industry to process the 2 billion plus pounds of animal waste each year, landfills would be over filled, dea animals would be abandoned and sewer systems would face operational problems as excess grease and debris would clog lines and impact waterways."
Terry and other officials at Monday's meeting said the plant is looking to sell its current facility and move to a new location farther from houses, but that's a long process that could take a few years.
Neighbors said they would like to meet with officials from the plant itself, but so far - people at the meeting said - those officials have not attended any of the community talks held on this subject.