Murray Hill residents pursue next steps to ending ‘noxious odors’

The federal judge’s dismissal in July of a lawsuit by Murray Hill homeowners Jenny Wright, Natalie Soud, and James Cobb accusing a Westside Jacksonville chemical plant of creating ‘noxious odors’ that endanger their health, keep them from enjoying their neighborhood and negatively affecting their property values might have seemed like a death-knell for the case. Instead, homeowners are considering refiling the lawsuit.

“The court dismissed the IFF case on a procedural issue. Since that time, we have been considering all of our options and will proceed accordingly once the plaintiffs have determined which approach is in the best interests of their case and their proposed class,” said Laura Sheets, attorney with LIDDLE & DUBIN, P.C., Detroit, Mich., which is representing the homeowners.

U.S. District Judge Brian Davis ruled that the lawsuit filed in January didn’t belong in federal court because the people suing and the company that they sued were all Florida citizens. Lawyers for Jacksonville homeowners noted that IFF Chemical Holdings was incorporated in Delaware.

But Davis pointed to a 2017 decision by an appeals court that said a company incorporated in one state and doing business mostly in another, as IFF Chemical Holdings does, is really a citizen of both states, and because of that, the case had to be dismissed.

“Murray Hill Preservation Association is closely monitoring the progress of the class action lawsuit regarding the chemical smell. Hopefully the case will be refiled in the proper jurisdiction so that the merits of the claim can be assessed by a court of law,” said Joshua Gellers, a Murray Hill Preservation Association (MHPA) board member who is representing the association on the odor issue. “In the meantime, we encourage all of our community members to stay vigilant and continue to report incidents to city authorities at or by calling 904-630-CITY (2489).”

As previously reported by The Resident News, according to its website, International Flavors and Fragrances, known as IFF, is a global fragrance company that uses “by-products from the paper-making process to make ingredients for fine fragrances and products for personal care, fabric care, and home care.” It uses sulfur and turpentine in its processes that are discharged in wastewater.

Murray Hill residents think the odor that they describe as “sickly sweet” is coming from an IFF factory located at 2051 North Lane Avenue, three to five miles away from Murray Hill. The City of Jacksonville’s Environmental Quality Division served IFF with a cease-and-desist citation on Dec. 11, 2020, and is working with IFF to resolve the matter. Three residents of Jacksonville’s historic neighborhoods filed a civil lawsuit on Jan. 12, 2021.

The company denies that its factory is the source of the odor described by residents.

“IFF is committed to doing better for our people, customers and communities. We do not believe that IFF is the source of objectionable odor in the Murray Hill area and will vigorously defend any lawsuit if another one is filed against IFF,” said Michael Munz, spokesman for IFF.

“We previously engaged environmental, health and safety experts to conduct scientific review and full evaluation of our Jacksonville facility. Their review confirmed that our Jacksonville facility is not the likely source of objectionable odor in the Murray Hill area. We had this study conducted because we also want to know, just as the community does, what is the true source of the odor. We have shared this information with the various agencies at the state and city levels and made it available to the community as well.  We are working hard to better understand what residents in Jacksonville are experiencing and are fully committed to investigating every complaint submitted to IFF.”

IFF’s website at includes a Contact Us page for residents with inquiries or ideas.

At issue is the fact that many complaints cannot be validated because they are made at after normal work hours when the Environmental Quality Division cannot investigate. The Jacksonville Environmental Protection Board has authorized funding of a study by Envirosuite to better understand and manage the odor complaints within urban areas of the city. Envirosuite provides 24-7 monitoring of air pollutants and their origins, which the City’s Environmental Quality Division is not able to do.

“Completing a 12-month study with continuous monitoring will provide the city with additional information that may help enable future response to community concerns even at times when personnel may not be available to perform a site inspection and a deeper understanding of the characteristics of the odor being perceived, said Caroline Adkins, public relations specialist for the City of Jacksonville. This study will also … take in all the different possible weather variables through the year that might have a different effect on how the odor is perceived through the city.”

Eleven sensors will be deployed within the study area.  Those sensors will compile continuous monitoring information which can be pulled with reports at any time. It will not, however, monitor any particular facility or obtain evidence to document a violation of any law, rule or regulation during the study period.

City Councilmembers Al Ferraro, District 2, and Randy DeFoor, District 14, co-sponsored ORD #2021-0461 on July 27 seeking to appropriate $125,392.00 in a fund balance from the Environmental Protection Fund to conduct an urban area odor study. The ordinance was amended to provide a carryover of funds through Sept. 30, 2023, and approved by the Transportation, Energy & Utilities Committee on Aug. 16 and by the Finance and Rules committees on Aug. 17. It includes a funding agreement between the City of Jacksonville and EMS Bruel & KJAER, Inc. D/B/A Envirosuite, Inc., with oversight by the Neighborhoods Department of the Environmental Quality Division and a final report to the Jacksonville Environmental Protection Board.

City Council passed the ordinance at its Aug. 24 meeting as amended with 16 voting yay and none voting nay.

By Karen Rieley
Resident Community News

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)