“why has the outside of whole foods on P st has smelled like human waste for a few weeks?”

1440 P Street, NW

A curious tweet sent to us yesterday:

“@PoPville has anyone inquired and/or figured out why the outside of whole foods on P st has smelled like human waste for a few weeks?”

Anyone else notice this?

Update from DC Water via twitter:

“There was clogged sewer line on that block which led to a backup which may have led to the smell.

We’ve since cleared the grease buildup and scheduled a crew to reinvestigate for a reoccurring odor issue.

Just checked out the comments. Probably unlikely that this would have led to a “smell” for the past few weeks #PEARnotPOOP”

75 Comment

  • Yeah it’s really bad. We were trying to figure out the smell as well.

  • THIS. It’s been like this for weeks!!

  • This is not new. It was like that last year and perhaps before that. Maybe its whatever compost they have in their planters? I have always been surprised to see people eating out there when it stinks.

  • Because it’s Whole Foods. Since when did “organic” lose it’s smell?

  • Definitely noticed this a few days ago but didn’t realize it was an ongoing thing.

  • It stunk so badly yesterday. Egads. We assumed it was the compost/manure in the planters. Also, it looks like they were selling big bags of soil and/or manure in front of the main entrance on the sidewalk. We didn’t investigate because it stunk so badly!

  • I noticed this a full week ago and it was one of the worse smells I’ve smelled in a very long time. Like decaying human body.

  • It’s honestly terrible!

  • Yeah, I noticed it starting a couple of weeks back. It is horrendous.

  • I’m pretty sure it’s the pear trees planted on that block. They have a horrible urine/rotten fish smell this time of year.

  • That’s the smell of Whole Foods’ new “kale enema cleanse.”
    It’s the stench of healthy living.

  • I was going to make a rant and rave post about this today. It’s been really bad for the past week and smells most just to the east of the Whole Foods entrance

  • Sounds like people have noticed.

  • Smelled it a few weeks ago when I ate a quick bite on their patio. Thought I had stepped in dog or human poop between the doors and patio chairs. Couldn’t find anything…

  • There was a bio sanitation clean up truck outside of Whole Foods last week, with a crew milling about. Seems like it’s probably related!

    • I saw this truck last week, too. I was hoping they would resolve the issue. I guess not.

    • This. The smell is not coming from the trees, it is not coming from the homeless persons, it is not coming from the compost piles. Instead, it is coming from the sewer ventilation grates in the sidewalk just to the east of the Whole Foods entrance – and that is the area that the sanitation crew was pumping out (without success, though, as the smell is continuing).

  • When I have smelled it, there was a particularly dirty homeless person on the sidewalk, and so I attributed it to him. Maybe this is unfair and inaccurate, but this person was really, really filthy, beyond what you usually see in a homeless person.
    That smell is so bad I cross the street rather than walk in front of Whole Foods. It practically burns my nose hairs.

  • It is not the pear trees, they weren’t blooming when I was there last week, and they don’t smell like this smell everyone is talking about. It is a really bad smell! Like backed up human waste! Glad someone mentioned this though, no one else seemed to react to the smell when I walked out the other day, so i was like the other person, was I the only one noticing it.

  • This smell is SO gaggingly bad! I went to get some food here the other day but was so nauseated by it that I walked however many blocks it is to Trader Joe’s instead.

  • It’s definitely sewage related. Thee were two sewage pump trucks doing something there a few days ago. It doesn’t appear to have taken, as the smell remains. And it is definitely NOT the trees.

    • Yeah def sewage.

      But between the Pear flowers, the ginko berries in front of the CVS and the sewage, this may be one of smelliest blocks in DC.

  • It smelled last summer for quite a while and hadn’t years previously. It’s particularly bad where the bike racks sit. There are metal grates there and the smell emanates from what’s below the grates.
    Rivers of sewage from down below? Who knows.

  • It’s smelled like this for at least the past 3 – 3.5 weeks.

    Two weeks ago I asked my cashier at WF what was up with the smell, she said the pipes underneath the building burst and that’s what’s causing the smell. They can smell it inside right at the beginning of the 20 items or less cash registers too.

    Hopefully they get this fixed, I did see a sanitation vehicle last week on my walk to work in the morning but it still smelled that afternoon when I was headed home.

  • It’s definitely coming from the grates. What I want to know is how anyone can sit out there, let alone eat, without literally vomiting? Just thinking about it is making me feel queasy.
    The trees have a decidedly fishy smell–there are two in the alley behind my house and every spring I expect to find a rotting rat carcass or something but then I look up: Bradford Pear strikes again!

  • Yeah, it definitely still smells like a tipped over outhouse. It has to be something with the sewage because it’s been this way for weeks. Hope they get this figured out soon — it is horrifying.

  • I think it may be sewage, and it was exactly the same last year. Very foul — what surprises me is that Whole Foods still has the tables outside and people just hang out right next to the grates from where the stink is emanating.

  • Lyndsey

    YES. YES. YES. Thank God I’m not taking crazy pills.

    I’ve noticed it for weeks – it’s not coming from the trashcans, the alley, or the gutter – I don’t know if it’s a broken septic system/sewage pipe but I actually threw up Friday night walking past and have noticed it every time I’ve walked by.

    The worst part is NOBODY ELSE seems to notice!

  • Hey everyone,

    I can’t speak for the pears, ginkgos or the indigent but I can’t confirm that there was a grease backup in the sewer line on that block. We cleared the line on Friday and am sending out another crew to investigate any reoccurring smell. Sounds like it’s may be a superstorm of smells.


  • Soooooo I think people notice but NO ONE says anything because they don’t want to offend anyone. “does my friend smell like shit?”

    We can’t stand it so we have tried our best to limit our trips to WF. It smells like someone is using the grate outside as their personal toilet. I used to go past there every single day last year on maternity leave just to get out and walk and it was never bad. Now, it’s so awful. I think they would be smart to post a notice about it and what they are doing to get rid of it. It’s probably also a health issue if people sit out there. Not that I know why they would want to. Gah it’s so bad!

  • Well this makes me feel better. I stood out there looking for dog poop on my shoes for 3 minutes yesterday, worried it was me.

  • I just went to WF and the smell is as bad as ever. There are actually people sitting in the down wind area (between the garage and grates) and EATING!! They must have some superhuman ability to not smell anything. I wish I could unsmell it, personally. Scarred for life!!

    • Yes! I’ve been wondering about the smell – and about the people who apparently don’t notice the smell… Glad to have found this post finally. Thought a small animal had died in those grates or something.

  • Today the smell seemed to be the worst when I was by one of the trash cans out front…like something dead was in there.

  • DC Water was doing something in one of the manholes by the garage exit on Saturday. Related somehow?

  • people saying it’s the pear trees have clearly not experienced the smell in question… it’s poop.

  • I walk past there everyday. The smell is nothing like anything in the past. I’m guessing it’s a sewer problem.

  • DC Water is out here with a “vac-con” truck right now doing some suctioning in the grates outside WF. A couple of PEPCO and environmental services trucks also here. Gotta agree with others this is NOT the pear trees, it is a much stronger waste stench.

    • “It is a much stronger waste stench” Oh, is it ever. I walked past there at lunchtime and the smell was unholy. I’m probably seven blocks away now and am still getting whiffs of it.

  • I walked by the other night and noticed it. I think the smell is from all of the (fertilized) fresh plants and the walls of bags of fresh fertilizer (cow poo) …it IS springtime, after all. It is definitely NOT human waste.

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