UNIVERSITY CITY — A sign atop the Seafood City Market and Grocery Store reads: “Fresh. Live. Seafood.”
Thousands of kilos of seafood are rotting in freezers that have been without power for months. Even outside, the stench can knock you out.
A team of workers is now working to clean up the putrid mess.
The megastore at 8020 Olive Boulevard has been closed and the building condemned since late March. St. Louis County Department of Health inspectors then discovered the store was open and selling food despite orders to close for health rule violations in December 2022.
The store’s seafood counter had been closed, also for violating health rules, in October 2022. However, the store’s retail section, which sold prepackaged foods, was allowed to remain open until which the county orders closed permanently in December. .
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Apparently no one thought to clean out the freezers or other foods.
Swarms of bubbling flies now cover the windows, trying to get in. Everyone wants to go out. It’s crude work, requiring hazmat suits, respirators and a strong stomach. But someone has to do it.
Bio-One, a local franchise that typically cleans up after suicides and crime scenes, takes care of the mess. John L. Wagner, University City’s director of planning and development, has expedited the cleanup using a regulation that bypasses some steps in the contracting process when it comes to a public health issue.
Wagner said the owner, Six Fortune LLC, is fully cooperating and will cover the $7,000 per day cleaning costs.
“Whatever salary people get, it’s absolutely not enough. Double it and maybe triple it,” said Hollie LeBeouf, who lives a few blocks behind the building.
LeBeouf started noticing this smell a few weeks ago. The amount she received depended on the wind and temperature of the day.
“Sometimes it was a little whiff, and sometimes it would slap you in the face. It almost covered the inside of your sinuses,” she said.
After checking his own trash to find the source of the odor and after his partner, Jared Elliott, went to the roof to see if anything had died there, LeBeouf began questioning the neighbors. Nothing was wrong with them either, so she went to the neighborhood-specific social networking site Nextdoor.
“Nextdoor is known for its armchair detectives,” she said.
Nextdoorians, many of whom also experienced the foul odor, first suggested and then rejected sewers and the Des Pères River as possible sources of the foul odor. LeBeouf called the county Department of Transportation and Public Works.
A woman there — LeBeouf doesn’t know her name — acknowledged that it smelled like rotten food and reminded LeBeouf that Seafood City had closed its doors. Suddenly everything made sense.
“It’s like hot garbage juice. It’s a putrid, rotten seafood smell,” she said.
The smell permeates everything and persists.
One of the Bio-One workers, Kristen Laurell, came home Monday and immediately took a shower. She put on pajamas, she said, and sat down to watch “The Big Bang Theory.”
But she still smelled bad, so she took another shower, this time with heavy-duty soap used by her teenage son, who recently did construction work. She changed into another pair of pajamas, but she still smelled bad. So she took a third shower, this time washing her hair to finally get rid of the stench.
On Tuesday, she was back at the site with her hair in a bandana, hoping to reduce the smell.
Other Bio-One workers were similarly affected. For lunch, the group of four only ate one large order of McDonald’s fries, and even then they had a few fries left.
One of the workers, Hali Wilson, said: “I’ve lost my appetite and I’m a seafood lover.”