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Suburban Chicago residents upset over food factory smells

Suburban Chicago residents upset over food factory smells
Suburban Chicago residents upset over food factory smells 02:22

AURORA, Ill. (CBS) -- A neighborhood in Aurora has had enough of the noise and the smell.

They say it's coming from a meal-kit company that moved in a few years ago. The issue was set to come up during the Aurora City Council meeting tonight.

Neighbors who've been raising their concerns to the city and the company for years spoke to CBS 2's Noel Brennan.

"Our lives have just been turned upside down," said Julia Hirschberg.

When Factor  a business owned by meal kit company Hello Fresh, opened a plant in an Aurora neighborhood in 2020, the greeting was more foul than fresh.

"It's literally in my backyard," Hirschberg said. "We call it Hello Not-So-Fresh."

Hirschberg noticed the noise first, then the smell.

"It literally shakes the foundation of my house," Hirschberg said. "The stifling aromas of like diesel and garlic -- all of that is getting sucked directly into my house and making us very sick. Headaches, nausea, coughing, congestion."

Neighbor Sandra Orozco noticed it, too, and tried in vain to keep it out of her house.

"Very strong," Orozco said. "We had to, like, tape our door so we wouldn't -- the smell wouldn't come in."

Hirschberg and Orozco said they're concerned about air quality from idling trucks.

"You can hear the trucks from right here," Orozco said.

"I didn't even put up a Christmas tree last year, because every time we came downstairs, we would get so sick," added Hirschberg.

For the third time this year, representatives from Factor will speak at Aurora City Council. On Tuesday night, they'll update the public on what they've been doing to address these concerns.

A spokesperson for Hello Fresh said the company installed sound barrier fencing for the noise, and testing done this month demonstrated a reduction in sound -- though Hischberg still hears it.

Hello Fresh added that independent testing shows emissions don't negatively impact air quality, despite conditions neighbors find in their homes.

"My bedroom is on the first floor," Hirschberg said. "I have not been able to sleep in there since April of 2021."

The company is looking into what it calls aroma reduction technology to tackle the smell.

"It's not pleasant," said Hischberg.

But it may not be enough for homeowners who feel stuck with a neighbor they don't want.

"Our lives have been on hold for three years, so compensate for that -- or at least acknowledge what they have put us through," Hischberg said.

The Aurora City Council meeting started at 6 p.m. Tuesday. At least one neighbor was to speak. They're requesting to meet directly with Hello Fresh so they can raise their concerns.

Hello Fresh sent a statement to CBS 2 regarding the issue:

Factor firmly supports the communities where we operate and deeply values our relationship with the Aurora community. We have thoroughly investigated concerns raised by our neighbors by engaging third party experts and conducting scientific studies. 

Based on findings, Factor continues to be in compliance with all applicable zoning and permitting rules and regulations. Nonetheless, we have invested in several proactive and impactful changes to help address the neighbors' concerns. We will continue to closely monitor our impact and make additional improvements based on feedback shared from the City of Aurora, our neighbors and our evaluations.

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