PINELLAS PARK, Fla. - "It's bad, it's very bad."
That's how some people who live nearby describe the smell that, they say, comes from Reliable Septic and Sewer just outside of Pinellas Park in unincorporated Pinellas County.
"I've got grandchildren. They can't play outside because of the stench," another woman said.
Two years ago, Reliable began operating a FOG processing plant on the site. F-O-G is fat, oil and grease. Neighbors say, whatever the source is, the odor can be overwhelming.
"The smell, it just kept getting worse and worse throughout the weeks and everything. My family and I, we didn't even want to be outside," recalled Arthur Nagle, who can see the plant from his backyard.
Pinellas County told Reliable they needed a different class of zoning in order to continue operating the plant. Three months ago, the Pinellas County Local Planning Agency, after hearing from both sides, delayed a vote on the rezoning.
At the same time, the county issued a cease and desist order to the company until the issue was resolved. Reliable has challenged that order and has continued to operate. Today Reliable, and those who oppose the zoning change, appeared before the Planning Agency.
Kevin Hennessy, the attorney for Reliable, told the board, "They've been playing by the rules. They've been a positive business in this community handling a nasty business that very few people really want to do."
After ninety minutes of hearing from both sides, Lauralee Westine, a Planning Agency board member said, "I think there's a reason that there were no objections for thirty or forty years when the property was running as is.
Then all of a sudden the processing came in and that's when all of the sudden the problems and the objections started. So with that said, I would make a motion and look for a second for a motion to deny, but without prejudice."
The board unanimously denied recommending the zoning change request to the county commission. But the door is still open for Reliable to re-apply for the rezoning.