City’s hunt continues to find source of bad smells

As Murray Hill residents continue to report less-than-pleasant smells wafting through their neighborhood, Envirosuite, the company contracted by the city of Jacksonville to provide 24/7 monitoring through a 12-month study, is now in its fourth month of environmental data collection. Residents living in other urban neighborhoods such as Ortega, San Marco, Springfield and Brentwood have also complained about the smell.

Thirteen sensors and two weather stations, because the wind direction is a part of the study, were installed in February 2022. The study officially started in April 2022 and is scheduled to be completed a year later in April 2023. Quarterly reports, periodic validation of results and relocation of monitors are included.

The data being collected is available for the public to view on the COJ website at – Urban Odor Study ( Envirosuite aggregates the data monthly and sends the City’s Environmental Quality Division (EQD) and the Jacksonville Environmental Protection Board (JEPD) a snapshot of the results. Daily, real-time data is not available, according to Caroline Adkins, COJ public relations specialist.

“We will compare Envirosuite’s data for modeling with odor complaints we receive through our CRM system from calls to 630-CITY,” said Adkins.

“Most people don’t realize that the Environmental Quality Division only has 10 people in it,” Adkins said. “These studies are good because they will be able to record smells when people aren’t available to get there.”

Some Murray Hill residents think the odor is coming from an IFF factory located at 2051 North Lane Avenue, about five miles away. 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, fabric and home care. The sulfur and turpentine used in its processes are discharged in wastewater. 

IFF has denied that its factory is the source of the odor and is seeking to have a lawsuit brought by Murray Hill homeowners dismissed. The homeowners claimed in a January 2022 lawsuit that the factory is responsible for smelly emissions that are damaging property values and destroying their quality of life.

The homeowners re-filed the class action lawsuit against IFF earlier this year after a similar lawsuit was tossed out by a federal judge.

“Our initial case that was filed in federal court was dismissed on procedural grounds because the court found that it did not have jurisdiction,” said Laura L. Sheets, a partner in Liddle Sheets Coulson P.C. that represents the homeowners.

“We are aware of the Envirosuite study. At this point, it is our position that there is nothing about that study that helps or hurts our position in the lawsuit,” she said.

“The main culprit for the smell that residents have been describing as a chemical smell is turpine,” said Josh Gellers, Ph.D., LEED Green associate and associate professor in the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at the University of North Florida. Gellers lives in Murray Hill.

“Turpine is a kind of volatile organic compound (VOC),” he said.

Each Envirosuite sensor measures three different types of air pollutants: NH3 (ammonia), H2S (hydrogen sulfide that smells like rotten eggs), and VOCs (a range of chemical compounds including turpene).

“If you look at the data for June, there is a huge spike in VOCs recorded between the hours of 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. by RHD 1 – eNose 8 sensor, which is not either of the eNose sensors placed near IFF, when the wind is at its lowest ebb of the day,” said Gellers. “At the same time, there is no guarantee that the VOC being captured here is turpene. It could be something else. All of this is to say that it is not clear that IFF is the culprit according to the June report.”

Adkins reports that the sensors are located as follows: eNose 1, 228 Normandy Blvd. & Cassat Ave.; eNose 2, 1520 Van Wert Ave.; eNose 3, 2512 Post St.; eNose 4, 5909 W 5th St.; eNose 5, 1550 Ellis Rd. N; eNose 6, 5730 Hwy. Ave.; eNose 7, 5605 W. Beaver St.; eNose 8, 5358 Ramona Blvd.; eNose 9, 624 Beauty Rest Ave.; eNose 10, 1201 Wolfe St.; and eNose 11, 3524 Ola St. Met Tower locations are 845 Ellis Rd. and 3620 Bedford Rd.

“This [Envirosuite study] is just another tool we’re using,” said Adkins. “We are still taking complaints, and we use JEPB Rule 1 for follow-up.”

JEPB Rule 1, which details procedures for filing and verifying citizen odor complaints, requires each complaint of odors received by phone to be recorded. If complaint specifically identifies the source of the odor, JEPB will notify the source of the complaint and send an investigator to the location to record data about the odor.

JEPB has to receive, validate and verify a minimum of five complaints from separate households in a 90-day period to begin a citation process against the source. The information from the Envirosuite sensors will be matched with complaints. All the data taken together will more accurately pinpoint the problem and lead to a solution.

“We need for residents to continue to complain,” Adkins said. “Right now, complaints are down, and we don’t know why. Is the odor lessening, or are they just not reporting the odor? People may be getting complacent.”

While complaints may be less currently, that doesn’t mean residents are still not detecting odors. In fact, residents in urban neighborhoods such as Ortega, San Marco, Springfield and Brentwood have complained.

“What is this awful smell outside?” said Lee Ann Rummell in a Nextdoor app post on Aug. 15, 2022. “It feels toxic and smells like insecticide meets bad sewer odor. Is it safe to be breathing outside?”

Rummell lives in the San Marco area. Others in her neighborhood replied to her post noting that they felt nauseous throughout the night with sinuses burning and that the smell was horrible as they were leaving the Lakewood Publix. The smell was described as like insecticide or like that of a decomposing dead animal or a Pinesol smell or even like a dead skunk.

“Neighbors can help us track the odor by calling it in immediately by phone to 630-CITY (2489) or electronically at The study sensors can be moved if calls reporting an odor provide evidence for a better location,” said Randy DeFoor, City Council member for District 14, which includes Murray Hill.

Call 630-CITY (2489) or submit your complaint at Email [email protected] to help us keep our readers informed.

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