People who live in Harahan and River Ridge have complained off and on for months about a strong chemical smell has invaded their homes.

They also claim the odor has caused a variety of health problems, which has officials on a hunt for the precise source of the stench.

"When it comes into your home, there's just no escaping it," Harahan resident Lindsey Capdepon said. "You can't open a window, because the smell is outside too. It burns your eyes. It burns your nose. It burns your throat. It gives you a headache. You can't sleep. You can't breath."

Capdepon keeps a scented candle burning in her home to mask the smell.

"I have to listen to my children cough all night long when the smell is in my house," Capdepon said. "It's sad. It's awful as a mother to experience that."

Craig Guillot of River Ridge said the odor was particularly strong Thursday night.

"I think around midnight, 1 a.m., it was in our home," Guillot said. "It just takes over your whole home. You can't get rid of it. You go outside in the morning, it's in your car. You have to air everything out."

A Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality report indicates the smell could be coming from landfills on the west bank.

One of them is the Jefferson Parish-owned waste facility in Waggaman.

Air samples collected by DEQ, showed elevated levels of hydrogen sulfide and methane during an odor event in April. They are two principal constituents of landfill gas,"

Jefferson Parish Councilman Paul Johnston said he also has smelled the odor at his home in Harahan.

"According to what the environmental department told me, we do have an issue at our landfill," Johnston said. "But, we don't know if that's the whole problem with the … smell."

Johnston added, "They fill boats in the middle of the night with grain and other products. They clean barges in the middle of the night. They have chemical companies on the west bank."

The parish will soon install special landfill covers to try to contain the smell.

In the future, wells designed to collect the gases underground may need to be replaced or repaired.

In the meantime, neighbors are expressing a sense of urgency.

"You breathe this stuff at night, you're not sure what you're breathing," Guillot said.

"People are getting sick," Capdepon said. "Babies are having nose bleeds. It's a crisis. It's a health crisis. They need to take responsibility and they need to fix it or shut down the landfill."

For now, the parish has asked its landfill operator to stop taking liquid waste and other material believed to have the potential over time to create an odor.

Johnston said the parish is not happy with the operator and plans to put the contract back out for bid.

Paul Murphy can be reached at pmurphy@wwltv.com.