Mystery of strange odor in St. Charles County may have been solved

FOX Files

ST. CHARLES COUNTY, Mo. – Last month, FOX 2 reported people in St. Charles, Warren, and Lincoln counties had complained of a strange odor in the air. About two weeks later, the complaints stopped.

“My staff’s been out there like bloodhounds,” Wentzville Mayor Nick Guccione said. “I’ve been out there trying to determine where it‘s coming from, so I’m glad we found the source.”

Mayor Guccione and Public Works Director Sue Spiegel were tracking citizen complaints about unexplained odors people have described ranging from musty to chemical.

“Yeah, we were walking in ditches, walking around different facilities and plants, and trying to locate the smell and where the strongest point was,” Guccione said.

They worked with Caroline Kargus of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, who used a special sensor called a nasal ranger. She did not find violations but her work helped narrow the possible source to Wentzville’s General Motors Plant.

“I’m very satisfied with the way the investigation went. Everybody was helpful,” Kargus said. “Everybody wanted to find what it was and to find a solution and it seems we have done that in a relatively short period of time.”

GM also cooperated, asking citizens to report what they were smelling and today the plant announced, “We have completed several projects over the winter break, including deep cleaning of our paint sludge system, which should significantly reduce any musty odors associated with the plant. We will continue to monitor the paint sludge system to ensure it is operating as intended.”

The paint sludge system collects excess paint after vehicles are sprayed.

“Due to the shutdown, they may have become stagnant, because there was a shutdown during COVID, so there may have become stagnant and caused the smell,” Guccione said. “So since then, they’ve mitigated that and done a deep cleaning of the plant as well as the tanks. And in two weeks, knock on wood, I haven’t had any complaints or emails about it.”

The lack of reported odor complaints has held true through both cold and warm days. The mayor’s office, DNR, and reps from GM are all following up on Jan. 14 at the assembly plant for a follow-up inspection.

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