What's that smell? - New odor in downtown Kingsport

Matthew Lane • Sep 14, 2015 at 2:54 PM

KINGSPORT – If you've lived in Kingsport for any length of time, you've likely grown accustomed to the odors of industry. However, a new smell has been detected in recent months and for the people living and working in the downtown area, the stench is becoming more than a nuisance.

City hall and the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce have received a number of complaints during the past year about a new, fairly offensive smell in the downtown area. City and industry leaders have been struggling to identify its source with officials saying the cause could be a change in an industrial process.

For the people living and working in downtown, the details behind the smell are probably of little concern. They just want it to go away.

Mayor John Clark, sworn in a little over two months ago, is tackling this issue head-on and says he is fully confident the odor will be identified and minimized.

“We've always been able to find a balance between our industrial partners and the citizens,” Clark said. “Over the past 98 years there have been industrial challenges that have impacted our city, but we've always worked together and have been able to find that balance.”

Now, Kingsport finds itself in a similar situation where for the past six to nine months, a new industrial odor has become extremely offensive.

Discussions have taken place between the mayor, city staff, chamber officials and representatives of Eastman Chemical Company, Domtar, AirGas and BAE Systems, along with the city's public works department, given the proximity of the wastewater treatment plant to downtown.

Clark said everyone is trying to work together to resolve the issue. Despite rumors and finger-pointing, at this time, the source of the odor has not been identified.

“That's the focus right now, to identify the source. I think everyone has their opinions, which I respect, but at this point it has not been identified,” Clark said. “Someone's manufacturing process has changed and led to this offensive odor to occur every now and then.”

At this point, the industries are looking into the matter, trying to see if they are the cause of the new, offensive odor and will ultimately return to the city with their findings. Clark said he does not have a time frame for when the odor will be identified, though he admits there is a heightened sense of urgency with the issue.

“Everyone is focused on it,” Clark said. “I walk away from these discussions feeling very confident everyone is doing their best to resolve the issue.”

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