Residents and businesses say a sickening stench wafting through a north-east Victorian town for months is so invasive "it gets into your pillows".
They say you can set your watch for when the foul stink from the Saputo dairy factory starts sweeping through the community of Tangambalanga, Vic - 10pm, most nights.
"When I go to sleep at that time, when my head hits the pillow I get hit with the stench," Tangambalanga resident Tess Middleton said.
"The smell is so bad it's in our belongings, washing, mattress, pillows - it just doesn't go away.
"People with evaporative cooling now need to choose between being cool or having a rotten egg stink throughout their homes - this has been going on for some time now."
In several letters to residents, Saputo said it was aware of "intermittent odours" originating from its Kiewa East Road plant and that work was scheduled to fix the problem in March.
Union Hotel publican Willo Keck said locals had been talking about the stench for more than a year but that it had recently "become much worse".
"I can smell it nightly, actually about 10 o'clock at my house ... at the moment you can almost set your watch by it," Mr Keck said.
"I've been here for four years, but it's never, ever smelled this bad ... it used to happen about as often as you see a cow on the road, not that often, but now it's most nights.
"People understand that we live in a rural community and sometimes the factory might smell bad and there might be cows on the road, that sort of stuff, but the regularity and consistency of it lately has been really concerning for a lot of people.
"People talk about it here a lot - it is getting worse."
Tangambalanga General Store owner Shanelle Wallace said the smell hit early in the morning - and at 10 o'clock at night.
"A lot of the residents in town, especially the older ones, understand that there's been different smells here, there was a piggery, there always was a dairy farm, but at the moment the smell is really offensive," she said.
"I'm not sure why it happens at 10 o'clock every night, maybe the atmospheric conditions change, other factors, I don't know."
Ms Wallace, who sells takeaway food and has tables at the front of the store, said most people take their food home with them rather than dine outside.
"The problem with people not wanting to sit outside would impact the pub more than me because the smell gets worse at night," she said.
Further west at the Kiewa General Store, co-managers Jess Dixon and Bailey Bartel agreed the smell "was the talk of the towns".
"We don't get the smell too bad here but we hear about it regularly," Ms Dixon said.
"I spend a lot of time at the CFA (Country Fire Authority) shed and it's powerful there, but we're lucky we don't get it so bad here at the store.
"Some people come here to get a breath of fresh air, to escape that horrible smell, but it's a country town; you're always going to get smells."
Legal obligation to prevent escape of offensive odours
The Environment Protection Authority, which recently served a notice on a Wangaratta sausage casing factory for stinking out the town, said Saputo had a legal obligation to "take reasonable steps to prevent the escape of offensive odours".
"The EPA responded to community complaints about odours from the Saputo facility in October 2023 and required action be taken to rectify problems with their wastewater treatment ponds," an EPA spokesman said.
"EPA will serve remedial notices requiring they regain compliance within specified timelines. If they fail to do so, EPA will use its compliance and enforcement powers to take further action."
The EPA said it had not yet set a specific timeframe for the company to eliminate the odours at this stage.
"We understand there's a particular process that requires chemical or biological breakdown, so we have to be reasonable for the timeframe in what can be achieved," the EPA spokesman said.
Saputo had previously told residents in a letter to the community the odours were caused by an accumulation of material in its wastewater treatment ponds and that it had tried to fix the problem in January.
A Saputo spokesman told The Border Mail on Wednesday, February 7: "Saputo Dairy Australia is undertaking remedial activities to alleviate an odour issue at its Kiewa processing facility and has submitted an odour mitigation plan to the Environment Protection Authority.
"While there has been a delay in some proposed works due to the availability of specialised equipment, SDA has recently installed additional infrastructure and continues to action other odour mitigation activities.
"The Kiewa site management team is conducting ongoing odour monitoring and proactively engaging with neighbouring properties.
"While SDA appreciates the discomfort this odour may cause some community members, the company remains firmly committed to taking all necessary steps to mitigate the odour and continue to service the community responsibly."