Town smells like cat pee -- but why?

N.C. officials trying to discern stench's source

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Officials are trying to find out why a North Carolina coastal city smells like cat urine.

Residents told the StarNews of Wilmington that the stench is sometimes overwhelming.

As the newspaper reported, "When the cat urine smell becomes too strong, Nick Zachetti simply sprays Febreze on his pillow and nearly smothers himself."

“I put a pillow over my face just to give myself something to breathe through,” Zachetti told the StarNews. 

The smell was particularly pungent the weekend of Nov. 25, spurring more than a dozen residents, including Zachetti, to alert the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, the StarNews reported.

“When you smell that, you don’t think, ‘Oh, I want to bottle that and do a Chanel ad around it,'" Pamela Waite, Zachetti's neighbor, told the StarNews. “It’s enough to affect quality of sleep and smell. After you’ve gotten me up at 5 a.m., you’ve already done your damage.”

Officials have focused on factories nearby, the StarNews reported. DEQ investigators found that one facility reported a spill of 1,200-1,300 gallons of urea ammonium nitrate Nov. 22 and cleaned it up into the following week.

Residents have also flagged a facility that produces a heat-resistant polymer and has drawn regulators "in connection with a cat odor smell," the StarNews reported. The company has made more than a dozen upgrades to deal with the odor and is planning additional projects to identify and mitigate the smells.

But even with many potential culprits, officials told the StarNews that it's difficult to identify the source, especially once the odor has dissipated. Officials encourage residents to immediately report smells.