Fresno lawsuit centers on stink

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- People living in Southwest Fresno are raising a stink about the smells coming from a longstanding business.

A new lawsuit filed this week claims Darling International is a nuisance. The smokestack is not always active at Darling International as it is in the YouTube video we found, but even when there's no smoke to be seen, the smells are often overpowering -- especially as the weather warms up.

"Like this past week, it's been smelling like rotten cheese," said Rigo Lopez, who lives about a half-mile away. "I don't know, like something's dead."

Lopez says he didn't notice the smell before he bought his house. Now, he wishes he could move somewhere else, but he's locked into a mortgage.

Even two miles away, Kimberly Tapscott-Munson says the smell is still thick in the air when she's trying to enjoy the outdoors.

"It makes you sick to your stomach, makes you feel like you want to regurgitate and you have to flee inside," she said.

Tapscott-Munson is one of five people who filed a lawsuit against Darling this week, calling it a nuisance, and demanding compensation for more than 1,000 people living within three miles of the rendering plant. Edison High School is within that range, and Tapscott-Munson says her kids often caught a whiff when they were trying to learn.

"And they're having to endure that stench to continue their education," she said.

"It's got to be distracting," a reporter said.

"It is, it very much is distracting," said Tapscott-Munson. "And it's sad."

Darling lawyers asked Action News to send them any questions we had via email. A reporter emailed several questions, but more than four hours later -- when our story aired -- the lawyer still hadn't responded.

In promotional videos, the company highlights the environmental friendliness of animal rendering and pledge to stay at it.

"At Darling International, we're going to keep doing what we've been doing for the last 125 years," says CEO Randy Stuewe in the video.

And Darling has withstood decades of complaints and lawsuits. Most recently, another group sued in 2012. That case will head to mediation soon, with the city of Fresno also taking part.

In the past, Stuewe told us the company uses state-of-the-art equipment to eliminate odor. But when the city recently hired consultants to evaluate the operations, it came up with a long list of physical modifications to cut down on offensive odors detected by code enforcement officers. But the city's draft agreement with Darling to enforce those modifications has never been implemented, and the complaints continue.

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