PINELLAS PARK, Fla. - Something stinks in one Pinellas Park neighborhood. Neighbors have been complaining for more than a year about the odors produced at Reliable Septic and Sewer at 6660 90th Ave. N in Pinellas Park.
I-Team investigator Michael George asked neighbors and business owners to describe the smell.
"Foul, putrid stench," said resident Ray Wiggins.
"This is just so nasty," said business owner Michael Dearing.
The stench comes from waste processing at Reliable Septic. The smell doesn't appear every day, but when it does, Ted Legakis says it hurts business at his retail center across the street.
"We'd have people out there, basically, getting out of their car to visit our businesses. As soon as they smell that, they get back in their car and leave," Legakis said.
Ray Wiggins says when the odor is there, he and his wife can't go outside.
"If the wind changes, and they're processing, I've been forced inside my home," Wiggins said.
Pinellas County is aware of the problem. Dozens of businesses and residents signed a petition against Reliable Septic. Even a nearby school and nursing home complained. The Pinellas Air Quality Division rated the odor level a 9 out of 10 and fined Reliable $3,000 for multiple violations. But neighbors say the smell keeps coming back.
"The site is still not in compliance, and yet, he's still allowed to process," Legakis said.
Now, residents are angry at Pinellas County commissioners, who voted earlier this year to re-zone Reliable Septic and let them continue processing. We asked Chairman Ken Welch why he voted in favor of Reliable Septic.
"The zoning decision was based on a promise from the owner that he had a plan to deal with the odor issue in a matter of weeks, if we allowed the zoning change. Obviously we are months into the process, and the odor problem still exists," said Chairman Welch, in an e-mailed statement.
"To me, it's a failure of government to respond to the needs of the concerns of the many, for the concerns of one business," Wiggins said.
Reliable's owners wouldn't speak with us on camera. They referred us to their attorney Kevin Hennessy, who told us, in an e-mailed statement,
"Reliable Septic and Sewer has been working diligently and at great expense to appease Pinellas County and its neighbors. Although Reliable received a permit from the County in 2010 to process FOG waste at its property, and that permit remains valid and in effect, Reliable has modified its operations, at substantial cost, to be a good neighbor and improve its facility. Reliable, at the request of the County, has completed both a rezoning and site plan review process. Any claims that Reliable is operating illegally or without proper permits is simply false. It is frustrating that a small but vocal group continues to falsely slander a business that has served this community for over forty years. They clearly have only one goal, to close this business because they do not want it in their neighborhood. The reality is that Reliable is the oldest resident in this neighborhood. It is the people objecting who need to learn to be good neighbors."
Some neighbors say after two years of complaints, Reliable has had enough second chances.
"The only thing they can do is shut him down and just make him move to an area where he can operate a facility like this," Legakis said.
Reliable Septic's attorney says they are objecting to the fines issued by the county and will not pay them by the deadline of June 10. They plan to address the issue at the County Commission meeting next week.
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