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What's That Smell? Louisville Teen's App Tracks Odor Complaints

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Louisville residents now have another way to track odor complaints around the city thanks to one local teenager.

Seventeen-year-old Andrew Smith developed Smell Louisville last summer as part of an internship with the Institute for Healthy Air Water and Soil.

The free app lets residents record foul smells and any symptoms they might have, then marks the complaint on a map of the city.

“I was interested in a reason to delve deeper into technology and learn how to make an app,” Smith said.

Smith knew that Louisville had its own record of unpalatable odors.

Just last year, JBS Swift’s pork plant in Butchertown agreed to pay nearly $125,000 for five years’ worth of odor complaints.

On the other side of the city, in Rubbertown, residents have dealt with toxic air emissions and unsavory aromas for years.

A story released last week by Courier Journal that reviewed more than 6,000 odor complaints since 2012 found the city gets an average of three calls a day about unpalatable aromas.

Smith wanted to make it easier for residents to file complaints and create a community repository of them, said Ted Smith, Andrew’s father and the city’s former chief of civic innovation.

“This isn’t about redundantly doing what the [Air Pollution Control District] does, it’s really what can we all do that helps us live in a better place,” he said.

The Air Pollution Control District does have its own number and email to report odor complaints. But those reports don't always lead to action; city officials have to respond, travel to that location and smell the smell, too.

The city is also working on its own mobile app that will allow city residents to file complaints about everything from abandoned vehicles, to pot holes to bad smells, said spokesman Thomas Nord.

Still, Nord said he’s happy that the Smiths, and the rest of the community, are interested in helping track down foul odors.

“The main thing is we want to know about odors, too,” he said. “So anything that helps where people are smelling this, it’s helpful.”

The Smiths plan to test the app over the next month and share the findings with the Louisville Air Pollution Control District.

The app, Smell Louisville, is available for free on both iOS and Android devices.

The official channel to report smells is still via the Air Pollution Control District at (502) 574-7321 or by using this online form.

This story has been updated.

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter. Email Ryan at rvanvelzer@lpm.org.

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