"It's biological warfare," said George Travis Bird, referring to a thick licorice smell in the air surrounding his home. Bird lives next door to Diversified Services in Kanawha County.
Diversified Services is the company that cleaned up the Freedom Industries spill site after the January 9 spill that left hundreds of thousands of people without potable water. They also hauled the crude MCHM for Freedom.
On Thursday, Federal agents raided the business. They were hauling out equipment, seizing it. "It just makes me feel better," one neighbor said.
Neighbors who live around Diversified Services said they've smelled licorice in the air for months, even dating back to last summer. "All summer long we smelled it," a neighbor said. "They told us it was vegetable oil, used vegetable oil."
The business owner's attorney was on scene during the raid, but he declined to comment.
Neighbors, on the other hand, were quick to comment. One woman said many people who live in the adjacent mobile homes in the area have health problems. She believes the common denominator is Diversified. "I've got milky spots on the bottom of my lungs," she said. "I have to go to a lung specialist. All I'm waiting on is the appointment to become available so I can go."
She added that her grandchildren currently have pneumonia, and that others in the neighborhood have respiratory issues.
"It's killing us. It's already killed us," Bird said, referring back to the licorice smell.
Moving away from the area just isn't an option for many. "People can't afford to just pick up and leave," Bird said. Another woman said she was raised in the area. "I'll die and split hell wide open before I leave. It'll take more than this smell to get me out."
So far, officials haven't commented on why federal agencies raided the business.
In the meantime, we spoke with C.W. Sigmond Thursday. He is the Kanawha County's emergency manager. He tells us they have received calls from concerned neighbors about creeks and drains that run from Diversified's property and the surrounding land, into the Kanawha River.
The next potable water intake downstream is in Huntington. Sigmond tells us he forwards all of those complaints to the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.
We have reached out to the DEP about those concerns. We haven't received a response.
Stay with 13 News for more on this developing story.