By Marc Crail Mount Dora Vice Mayor & District 4 Representative I'm reporting on two Mount Dora City Council meetings held this week. We participated in a joint meeting with Lake County Commissioners at Sorrento Elementary School on Monday, October 16th and had a Regular Mount Dora City Council meeting on Tuesday October 17th. at City Hall. I'll provide you with some of the high points. Please remember that what follows comes from me as an individual and not from City Council as a whole.
The joint meeting was all about a potential new mixed use development out in the Wolf Branch Innovation District by a developer named, Richland. Their property is currently in unincorporated Lake County and would eventually be annexed into Mount Dora. What came out of the meeting is that City planners will be meeting later this month with Lake County planners in a cooperative effort eventually including representatives from Richland. The hope is to mutually agree on the plans. I believe that the joint meeting was a good beginning and I'm hopeful the this was the first of a series of joint meetings. The eventual success of the Wolf Branch Innovation District will depend upon excellent communications and cooperation. The potential exists for needed job creation and we all seemed to agree that we get one chance to make the best of this opportunity.
Our Regular meeting was unusually brief. We continue to work with the Department of Environmental Protection to reduce odors that neighbors believe emanate from one of our Waste Water Treatment facilities on the east side of town. There are also other potential sources as well. Our City Attorney and City Manager gave a report on their recent meeting with DEP officials and next steps in the process of making sure that we are are being good neighbors to residents who have been experiencing odors in their neighborhood. All concerned would like a quick and easy resolution but this complex situation requires gathering lots of data hopefully leading to incremental progress.
Our quote of the day comes from Mother Teresa. "You will teach them to fly, but they will not fly your flight. You will teach them to dream, but they will not dream your dream. You will teach them to live, but they will not live your life. Nonetheless, in every flight, in every dream, in every life the print of the way you taught them will remain."
Thanks for your interest in our great city and thanks for allowing me to represent District 4.
By Marc Crail Mount Dora Vice Mayor & District 4 Representative
It’s far from a new issue, but it’s certainly a concerning one. For years, residents of eastern Mount Dora have sought help from City leaders and staff to resolve the noxious odors negatively impacting their neighborhoods and quality of life. The culprit is hydrogen sulfide gas and here some things to know about the decade-long issue plaguing local residents:
1. what is hydrogen sulfide?
Hydrogen sulfide is a colorless, flammable, and poisonous gas often produced by the breakdown of organic matter without oxygen, such as in sewers. swamps and well-drawn water. It has an obnoxious, rotten-egg odor and is toxic to humans and other animals when inhaled at sufficient levels.
2. what are residents experiencing?
Residents of eastern Mount Dora stated during Mount Dora City Council meetings and interviews that the presence of the gas in the air has severely downgraded their quality of life for several years, or as long as a decade.
Residents cite a variety of complaints: they are forced to stay inside; they feel physically sick; they keep their kids inside; and children cover their faces as they wait for school buses. Many of these residents also contend the City hasn’t been adequately responsive. (See #10)
The potential air pollution is allegedly caused by the CIty of Mount Dora’s Waste Water Treatment Plant 2 located at 1850 State Road 46.
3. is this an environmental issue?
Yes. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) is involved and issued its second Consent Order on September 12, 2023 which cited the CIty of Mount Dora with nine violations of State of Florida codes and policies. As a result, FDEP says the City of Mount Dora owes $9,750 in penalties and settlement money. Non-compliance with the Consent Order could result in $1000-a-day penalties which could finally be the impetus for the City remedying the problem. The City obtained an extension in order for its new attorney to become familiar with the issue. See the consent order attached below which provides the specific violations and penalties.
“I think we’ve gone above and beyond to prove it’s not our sewer plant [emitting the odor],” Mount Dora Mayor Crissy Stile told Fox 35 News last month after the City received the Consent Order from FDEP. Florida’s environmental regulators have the contrary position that the City of Mount Dora failed to operate the collection system, as well as the water treatment facility in a manner to control foul odors, according to last month’s Consent Order.
Affected residents may be able to place hope in new Mount Dora City Attorney Patrick Brackins who said he intends to meet FDEP representatives and has made resolving the issue his top priority.
5. are there potential additional sources of the odor?
Mid Florida Recycling, which operates a nearby landfill, also received a consent order and began complying. Residents claim they can distinguish the difference between the sewer odor and the smell of the landfill.
6. How dependable is the odor detection equipment installed?
The equipment is only as dependable as it is present and maintained. At an October 3 Mount Dora City Council meeting, residents informed the CIty Council that a gas logging device, known as a “sniffer,” that the City installed near Sullivan Ranch, had been removed before a release of gas and then replaced days later. The residents have a time-stamped photo showing the missing device and its eventual replacement.
7. who is the area's elected city representative?
The residents most affected by the hydrogen sulfide gas are just outside Mount Dora’s eastern city limit. This has left those residents without elected representation to aggressively advocate for a successful remedy or to be held accountable at the ballot box. However, the City is required to comply with Florida’s environmental laws and policies.
what has the city done to mitigate the smell?
The City’s website points to various actions it claims to have made at the treatment plant at significant expense. In a letter dated March 20, 2023, to FDEP, Mount Dora City Manager Patrick Comiskey laid out the City’s odor remediation strategies, stating the City increased routine inspections in the “collection system” in the Sullivan Ranch area and installed odor mitigation at the lift stations. Subsequently, on May 8, the FDEP informed Comiskey of possible violation to Florida statutes or administrative rules which could result in significant financial liability.
9. Where does the issue stand now?
After years of residents seeking a remedy from the CIty, the FDEP’s case and fines may force the City to clean up the air, but time will tell. Local residents with safety concerns have reached out to environmental activist Erin Brockovich for assistance, but it’s unclear if she will weigh in.
10. what are residents saying?
“I want to say the past 3 years the smell has been so unbearable. My children have been complaining of headaches and burning throats as well as me and my husband. I'm worried about our health. It smells so bad that my house stinks for days and the smell is stuck inside. I then have to leave my house because it is so bad. - Genevieve Soileau
“My wife and daughter have had increasing trouble with asthma over the last 10 years we’ve lived in Sullivan Ranch. The smell has been here the entire time. The smell is quite overwhelming. It can wake you up from a deep sleep. It gets into every room of your home. You can’t get away from it indoors, much less enjoy time outside on the patio.” - Michael Ricardson
“Right after I moved here, I went to one of the city council meetings to complain, and here I am more than 3 1/2 years later still doing the same thing. All I hear are denials that it’s Mount Dora’s problem.” - Karen Muni
“I retired to Mount Dora just over 5 years ago and have been battling the smell ever since. My daughter works for a water treatment plant and told us from day one it was the water treatment plant, but I wasted countless hours chasing false information from our elected official. It broke my heart to see kids trying to breathe through their shirts while waiting for the school bus. “ -Cheri Pivowar
This is a nearly daily occurrence living in Stoneybrook Hills. I wake to the stench, go downstairs to find it’s nothing the dogs have done, and open the door to an even worse smell outside. It’s bad enough that I can’t enjoy my coffee on the patio or balcony. It takes hours for the smell to leave my house. It is nearly every day, usually waking me in the early hours well before normal business hours. You don’t smell it after 9 am. You don’t smell it during the day, except for sometimes late afternoons on the weekends. But only in afternoons [sic] on the weekends. If I’d have known about the recurring stench, I’d never have bought a house here. -Kay Govochek
“I am lucky enough to live in Sullivan Ranch and not have been effected [sic] by the odors everyone is talking about. I do smell a rotten eggs smell every time I am driving on 46 near the dump. I drove to the back of our community last week with 2 friends and we all smelled the rotten egg smell. The dump backs up to our community. One of our friends who lives in the back says the smell is constant. It’s not overwhelming but evident.” - Gerry Murphy
“It’s not every single day but it’s several times a week at the least. I had cows growing up and that smell is more pleasant than the nauseating rotten egg smell. It permeates into the house within one minute. The smell makes me immediately nauseous and anxious because I know that, based on previous experiences over the years, I will have a hard time breathing and sleeping and I will get a headache almost 100% of the time. I also get anxious knowing my two daughters are going to breathe in the same thing. I don’t know what it’s doing to our health and I don’t know if we will ever know. It’s frustrating to keep reporting and reporting the smell to no avail. - Ashley Davis
“I’m a resident of Sullivan ranch, the smell comes in all hours of the early mornings, 3am-4am and wakes us up. It's an awful smell of sewage. It stays in our home all day we’re worried for our health and long term effects from the gases that are being released. We can’t enjoy sitting outside or opening our windows due to the smell. We believe it’s the water treatment plant and not the dump.” Meisha Santagata
It’s very sad that when we have beautiful weather and we want to open our windows in our sliders we can’t due to the horrible odor. To my knowledge, no one was ever told about the smell when we had our homes built in this beautiful development there must be something that can be done about it. I hope that someone steps up and cures this horrible situation. people should be held accountable.” - Lisa Winslow
“I move [sic] to Sullivan ranch in March/2019 n [sic] have only smelled the rotten egg issue only twice and that was very early in the morning. Let’s face it, if you looked at it from a health point of view, that plat [sic] has been opened since early 1900,s n not [sic] death or sickness has been reported. The smells [sic] is unavoidable n it’s [sic] being contained. Let’s not exaggerate thing.” - Jorge Jacinto
“The city is saying they will be transparent about the water plant. At one point on their webpage they admitted that 800 ppm had been from the water plant but they had brought that amount down. They had stated that readings as high as 800 ppm had been recorded in the first quarter of 2023. This was removed. The city put out sniffers but they are taken down on certain nights and put back the following day. We have photographic proof. - Linda Bramer
By Marc Crail Vice Mayor and District 4 Representative The October 3, 2023 City Council meeting was relatively short and sweet. I've selected several discussion or action actions to fill you in on. I'm reporting to you as an individual and not as a spokesman for City Council as a whole.
Several residents who reside outside of the city limits complained about noxious odors they believe emanate from our wastewater treatment plant. Our City Attorney said that he will soon meet with Florida environmental protection officials to work out a plan for addressing the odor problem and determining the source or sources.
We approved Cathcart Construction Co. to construct stormwater drainage improvements on Liberty Ave. We have received a $290,000 stormwater grant from the Lake County Water Authority that will largely cover the costs and protect Lake Dora..
FYI, at long last Mount Dora City Council will conduct a joint workshop meeting with Lake County Commissioners on Monday October 16th. at 6:00 p.m. at Sorrento Elementary School. I haven't seen an agenda yet but the workshop discussion topics are likely to include our J.P.A. or Joint Planning Area including the Wolf Branch Innovation District and other intergovernmental coordination topics. The meeting is open to the public. Please keep in mind that during workshop meetings no votes are taken and there are generally no public comments.
I've got a quote I found on a website called "Coach Tim". According to Coach Tim;
"If it's not yours, don't take it. If it's not right, don't do it. If it's not true, don't say it. If you don't know, shut up."
I was impressed today by the efforts of our staff to tackle necessary projects, save taxpayers money by going after grants, the cooperation of my fellow City Council members and the first meeting where our new City Attorney was present. I was impressed by his expertise and quick learning curve. Thanks for allowing me to represent District 4.
By Marc Crail Vice Mayor and District 4 Representative