Denver Purina pet food plant sued over foul odors

Two residents who live near the Nestle-Purina Petcare plant in north Denver filed a proposed class action lawsuit in federal court this week over the rancid smell they say infiltrates nearby homes, parks, libraries, schools and businesses.

Plaintiffs Robert Fields and Lorena Ortiz allege the “noxious odors” emanating from the pet food plant are so strong they cannot plan outdoor events and that other neighbors have filed complaints with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to report the smell makes them gag and their eyes water.

In their complaint, Fields and Ortiz cited health department employees’ findings of odors that exceeded state standards.

The lawsuit quoted a complaint by two neighborhood residents who said, “I would describe the smell as rancid. It’s like someone barfed in your backyard and then it baked in the sun and then you put a fan on the smell to keep it circulating.”

Kids from Swansea Elementary School head ...

Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

Kids from Swansea Elementary School head home near the Purina plant in Denver on April 6, 2021. (Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post)

The complaint was filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court of Colorado, and the lawyers who brought the lawsuit say more than 50 other neighbors have contacted their firms to document noxious odors. The plaintiffs are asking for a judge to declare the Purina plant a nuisance for failing to properly maintain and operate the facility so that odors are controlled, and to fault the company for negligence. They also are asking for an unspecified amount in financial damages.

Purina first operated its plant in Denver in 1930 and for 42 years produced primarily livestock feed. It transitioned to a pet food factory in 1972, according to the Nestle website. The plant on York Street abuts Interstate 70 and is next to the Elyria-Swansea and Globeville neighborhoods.

Lorie Westhoff, a Nestle-Purina spokeswoman, said the company does not comment on litigation, but added in an email, “Throughout this time, we have remained committed to being the best neighbor we can be, and that won’t change.”

The lawsuit says that, on some days, the stench wafts up to a mile from the factory’s location, affecting up to 2,000 households.

The company has failed to install the necessary equipment that could capture, control and mitigate odors, despite years of complaints from city residents, the lawsuit alleges.