In the five or so years that Larry MacCluen has taught tennis on the courts of the Wedgewood Swim Club, there have been smells so bad it was enough to make his students gag. He'd move them to a more distant court.
"This [the bad smell] has probably happened three or four times a year" for the last four years, MacCluen said.
But on March 10, the smell, he said, was "ungodly."
He went to investigate - something he had not done before. In a wooded area not far from the tennis courts, with vegetation bare due to the time of year, he viewed a round cement structure that was spewing smelly, nasty stuff out of a manhole.
"It was gushing like a volcano, and it was running all over the place," MacCluen said. "It was gushing up three feet high.
He said he tried to call the town, but it was a Sunday and no one was there. The next day, he tried again, and someone from the borough came out. MacCluen said he asked him what the stuff was.
"He said, 'That's raw sewage.' "
The sewer line was promptly unblocked by the borough, but the large amounts of debris and waste were allowed to sit until about a week ago, when some residents reported the problem to the county and the state, which both sent out inspectors.
That was also when photographs of the foul mess, apparently taken within the last two weeks, were posted on the website of Haddonfield United, a grassroots organization that has been critical of borough leadership. At least one vocal resident has taken to calling the affair "Sewergate."
MacCluen and some other town residents now say they believe there have been more overflows at the site than have been reported or have become public.
Borough utilities director Joseph Keating has said there have been others, but they have not been frequent. The last one, he said, was about two years ago. A spokesman for Camden County said health officials have no record of other complaints.
Larry Hajna, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said his agency only has records for another spill in 2008. The agency has told the borough to provide the state with a plan for how it will prevent other overflows. No citations were issued.
Mayor Letitia "Tish" Colombi, who is not running for re-election, said she felt timing was part of why such a big deal has been made of the situation.
"It's campaign season," she said. The election is Tuesday.
An unpleasant odor "doesn't mean there's always been a spill," she said. A member of the swim club for over 40 years, she said that on some days there are odors.
Of the recent spill near the swim club, "I feel we took care of it. I'm not happy it took so long to clean it up, but I do not believe anyone was at risk," she said.
Haddonfield United founder Brian Kelly, who took the pictures posted on the Web, said he had walked the site and based on what he saw, he believes there have been more overflows than reported.
"The main thing now is [town officials] are on notice ... and we expect them to do the right thing," Kelly said.