SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Herman Guehr and his wife keep a neat, trim house in South Charleston, with an impeccably manicured backyard.
If only he could do something about the smell from the trash bins across the alley.
"The air conditioner vents are turned off," said Guehr on a recent humid afternoon, with the odor from the trash wafting through the neighborhood. "[The smell] goes in the house if you don't."
Guehr has lived in his Sixth Avenue home for 35 years. Up and down the alley behind his home, restaurants put their trash in a series of bins, which South Charleston city crews empty almost every day.
The trash doesn't always stink, but when it does, the odor can be nearly overpowering, Guehr said. He said food rots in the heat, and some of it leaches out onto the alley.
He collected some of the leachate in a pill bottle he keeps sealed in a plastic bag in case health officials need to test it.
"If you open this up and smell it, you might pass out," Guehr said.
On the other side of the alley, Seventh Avenue is home to several restaurants and an Asian supermarket, all of which throw away food.
Anita Ray, environmental health director for the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, said the messy garbage bins are not the fault of any particular restaurant.
"You're going to have odors because there are so many restaurants there," Ray said.
She said trash bins behind restaurants will often smell bad, especially in hot weather. "We don't ordinarily have residential areas behind these businesses," she said.