MDE investigating odor complaints around West Coast Mushrooms

West Coast Mushrooms on Hopewell Road just outside of Rising Sun town limits produces mushrooms and mushroom soil around the clock. While Maryland Department of the Environment routinely inspects the property near Rising Sun Elementary School, an MDE spokesman said complaints about odors have increased recently, causing the agency to take a closer look.

RISING SUN — The most recent investigation of the West Coast Mushrooms processing facility on Hopewell Road found “mild but steady odors from the facility in a plume” according to a spokesman for the Maryland Department of the Environment.

MDE investigators, in response to a number of recent complaints from the surrounding community, were on the property Monday and identified conditions as “mild to moderate odors.”

Neighbors have described the odors as everything from rotten eggs to burning sulphur or methane. Some claim the smells keep them from enjoying their yards and cause them to travel through the area with vehicle windows closed.

Although not in town limits, Rising Sun Town Hall often receives complaints when the odors permeate the west side of town.

Jay Apperson, deputy director of the MDE Office of Communications, said the state agency makes routine checks of the operation. Last fall a contact water pond was found to be stagnant and anaerobic, Apperson said, adding that anaerobic activity can be the cause of the odor.

“They were advised to aerate the pond and remove the top scum,” he said. With the aerator in place, MDE found no issues during its visits Sept. 25 and Dec. 10.

A Jan. 31 visit, however, found odors again, but traced it back to a farm near Rising Sun Elementary School, which had been spreading manure on its field.

West Coast Mushrooms also has a plant on Ebenezer Church Road, which gets little to no complaint from its neighbors.

Abel Gamboa bought the Hopewell Road facility in 2008. Two years later there was a strong, pungent odor that some tried to blame on Rising Sun’s wastewater treatment lagoon. (That system was replaced in 2015; however MDE ruled that the odors were not emanating from the sewer plant.) MDE worked with Cecil Soil Conservation at that time to address runoff and storage issues that were identified as that source.

Apperson could not say how long this most recent investigation would last. He did say, however that one of the complainants indicated the odor was worse at night so the inspector would make some night trips to investigate.

“We ask that if people have concerns and want to call in a complaint (the number to call is 410-537-3315) that they note details such as the time, the weather, the wind direction and the character of the odor,” Apperson said.

Phone calls and emails sent to West Coast Mushrooms for comment have not been answered.

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