Duette family frustrated by landfill odor

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A Manatee County family has been dealing with a smelly problem for two years. A rotten odor coming from a recycling facility next door has, at times, woken them up in the middle of the night and even forced them to leave their own home.

The smell can best be described as rotten eggs. You might catch a whiff as you're driving down County Road 39 in Duette. It's not all the time. But, the family that lives adjacent to the facility says that on a bad day, when the wind is blowing from the north, it can knock them off their feet.

In Chris Stanaland's eyes, his land is sacred. "This land was originally acquired by my great great grandfather," Stanaland said. "That makes my grandkids the 6th generation to be on this property."

The clear country air that once breezed through the family's Duette cattle ranch now, at times, takes their breath away. "As the wind came out of the north, we would just get inundated with horrendous smells," said Stanaland. "It's a lot worse than a rotten egg smell. It's an extreme high sulfur smell."

"A really bad almost sewage smell," said his daughter, Rachael Dinsmore. "My son has woken up complaining of headaches. They don't sleep well at night. On the nights we have the smell, they are up on a regular basis."

It's coming from their neighbor, Waste Management's North Manatee Recycling and Disposal Facility.

According to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the smell is hydrogen sulfide which occurs naturally due to degradation of waste. By law, the company can "not cause objectionable odors beyond the property boundary."

Beyond that, the State Department of Health also warns of health effects from exposure to strong amounts, leading the family to keep hydrogen sulfide detectors on hand.

"I have constant headaches now and I've never had no headaches," Stanaland said.

"When it wakes you up in the middle of the night, your eyes are burning our eyes have swollen," Dinsmore said.

Waste Management tells us they are working with the state. In the last year, they've installed a flare to manage gas as well as a misting system. They're measures the family says helped only temporarily. But, the company promises to clear the air once and for all.

Monday, its entire team of landfill managers, environmental specialists and gas well technicians went to the site to help install permanent tanks and equipment which should stop the smell.

Until that happens, the family is holding their breath.

"Adhere to the law. That's all I want," Dinsmore said. "I don't want them shut down. They have the right to do their business the same way we have a right to do ours."

"This is my livelihood," Stanaland said. "This is where my home is, this is where I feed my family, this is all I have."

The FDEP says the permanent filter system should be operating starting Wednesday, cutting down the amount of gas leaving the landfill as well as the odor. Waste Management says they are committed to being a good neighbor.