ELLIS COUNTY, Texas — A group of Ellis County homeowners say they are sick of being sick, and blaming it on human waste being dumped near their homes.
While state environmental regulators say they are investigating, residents want the spreading of "biosolids" to stop.
To see it from a distance, an Ellis County pasture just north of Milford looks like a typical parcel of land for cattle to graze.
But to smell it — even from a distance — tells a different story.
"The smell smells like decaying flesh,” said next-door neighbor Peggy Donathan. “It smells like dead fish."
Another neighbor just down the road, Anna Wight, has a similar description for it. “It smells like rotting flesh,” she said.
Donathan and Wight live next to the pasture where, for the past several years, the owner has allowed biosolids to be spread on his pasture land.
"Biosolids" is the polite term for human solid waste — baked and treated at a sewage plant, then spread on pasture lands as fertilizer by a company called Renda Environmental.
"Everything that goes in the toilet comes out here," Donathan said.
Her husband Randy said, just take one look at the dead grass and you know it has the opposite effect.
"And this is supposed to be fertilizer? When they are just dumping it in big clumps like this, it doesn't do any good whatsoever," Randy Donathan said. “There's no Bermuda, there's no weeds... there's nothing coming up."
Not only that, but his neighbors say it's making them sick.
"We immediately get congested. I continuously have to clear my throat," Wight said. "It's kind of like a chest cold."
The company spreading the waste is Renda Environmental. Over the past year, Renda has been repeatedly cited by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for violating state rules on storing and spreading bio-waste.
When neighbors complained last December, Renda was cited again. But weeks later, Renda was back, allegedly committing new violations.
TCEQ officials say they have opened a new investigation, but residents don't expect anything will be done.
"We can't get answers from the TCEQ. It just keeps coming,” Donathan said. “We have complained so many times, we get angry."
Renda representatives say they have responded to the concerns and are no longer spreading waste on the property. But neighbors question that, and say the answer soon may be blowing in the wind.