City life 

Northside smell persists

Despite recent efforts by city officials to identify and eliminate a smell described by Northside and Westside residents as similar to natural gas or propane, locals say the odor persists.

"When I wake up in the morning, (I'm) physically uncomfortable and disturbed by the smell," says Alexander Metcalf, a University of Montana professor who lives on Howell Street. "Without knowing what the chemical is, I don't know whether my health is at risk."

In May, locals began reporting the odor to NorthWestern Energy, emergency responders and the Missoula City-County Health Department. NorthWestern says it received about 20 complaints, but it hasn't found any problems with its local supply lines.

After several visits to the affected area—primarily Howell and Philips streets—local officials identified the Emerald Services recycling facility at 900 Philips as a potential source. Emerald Chief Operating Officer Dean Kattler says the company responded on July 3 by installing a carbon filtration system to curb storage tank emissions. "If we find that it's something that we're doing," Kattler says, "we certainly want to fix it."

Metcalf and other residents report the odor is less powerful since Emerald installed the filters, but the smell still lingers.

Renee Valley, who lives across the railroad tracks from Metcalf on Philips, started keeping a log to document the problem. Between July 4 and July 14, she reports smelling the odor nine times. "It wasn't that nausea provoking as it was the first couple of times," Valley says.

In an effort to definitively identify the source, Missoula City Councilman Bryan von Lossberg initiated a formal discussion in the city's Public Safety and Health Committee, inviting representatives from NorthWestern Energy, Montana Rail Link and Emerald Services to discuss actions they've taken to pinpoint the odor and their plans going forward. Von Lossberg is also asking the health department to itemize what tools they have on hand to regulate an environmental nuisance.

Howell Street resident Debby Florence is also asking residents to report when they encounter the smell in an online form that she intends to submit to the city, NorthWestern Energy and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality. "If people want to log when it's happening," Florence says, "that can be helpful."

Residents can access the reporting document at

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