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Ye OIde Stench Bog of York and King

A stench in the financial district is causing nearby businesses to cry foul.

Best described as a pungent mix between the scent of moldy dry cleaning and raw sewage, the constant steam stream rising from the grates and manhole at the southeast corner of King and York finally came to a halt after more than 10 days of the city's water department and Enwave District Energy Ltd. pointing fingers at each other.

"Customers have been complaining," says owner Mary Fu of the nearby Debut Cafe, who points out the stinky steam has been clouding up her patio. "It should be a piece of cake for them and instead they're pushing back and forth."

On July 7, Enwave, who's responsible for pumping hot and cold water into downtown buildings for heating and cooling, alerted Toronto Water that a leaky city water main was touching its 240-degree Celsius pipes causing the steam, and according to Water spokesperson Diane Chester, it was repaired by Tuesday evening, with some residual liquid evaporating.

Rest assured, says Chester, the smell isn't that of raw swage. "If there was a sewage leak down there, you'd know it."

The Toronto Environmental Alliance speculates the odour could be a number of things, including a chemical similar to chlorine which tends to evaporate easily, but couldn't pinpoint what specifically without investigating.

Enwave president Dennis Fotinos says they've temporarily installed two small chimney stacks at the corner to direct the stinky steam upwards as opposed to across.

"The underground chambers don't exactly smell like roses, throughout the course of the year, debris gets washed into them," says Fortinos. "It smells like water damage in your basement but it's not the steam that smells, but the water buildup around the steam and the debris in the manholes."

Toronto Public Health spokesperson Rishma Govani says there's no health risks associated with the steam, even though "odours make us uncomfortable and irrirtating, but there's no danger," she says. "Even when you go to the sewage, it's not dangerous, just hard to deal with because of our senses."

Still, Fu sums up the whole debacle in two words: "It stinks."


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