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Former fish market leaves foul smell in University City neighborhood

"It's so bad many of us thought we had a dead body in our neighborhood," Tori Lawrence said.

UNIVERSITY CITY, Mo. — "It permeates the whole air and makes me want to gag. I have to cover my nose," Jessica Qiu said.

For nearly a month, Qiu and her neighbors' noses have been twitching nonstop when they step outside in their University City neighborhood.

"Over time, I started smelling it every day, mostly in the evening, and it just got progressively worse," Qiu said.

No one could figure out the disgusting odor preventing folks from sitting on their backyard decks. 

"I thought it was my dog's poop. I thought it was my trash cans," Qiu said.

"It was so bad that we thought it was a dead body in the neighborhood," Tori Lawrence said.

Well, you might say it was "dead" fish.

A University City spokesperson said turns out the awful smell is coming from the former Seafood City Supermarket near 81st and Olive Boulevard.

In March, the St. Louis County Health Department said some products at the supply store were improperly stored, causing a potential health risk and shutting down the business.

"I have to stick my nose out my front door before I decide to take my baby for a walk. That smell just kept lingering and lingering," Lawrence added.

Six months later, neighbors are still complaining about the lingering stench.

Last week, University City contacted the building owner in California and told him the city would now clean up the "public nuisance and health hazard."

Spokesperson Mary Goodman told 5 On Your Side, "They don't know why the owner left the rotting fish inside the business or if he intended to clean it up."

The owner told the city "he will pay thousands of dollars" to clean up the mess.

On Monday, a glove-wearing crew spent the day filling up huge dumpsters and tackling the massive mess. It includes removing "3,000 pounds of rotting fish, countless canned goods and other items" neighbors can't wait to see all gone.

"We've been staying inside more because of it … So, I'm so relieved it's now being taken care of," Lawrence said.

"Yeah, I'm glad because I don't want to smell it anymore," Qiu said.

The crew will be back at the former fish market on Tuesday. They say cleaning up the mess could take all week.

A U City spokesperson also said the building owner has agreed to pay thousands of dollars to clean up the mess.

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