City Investigating Chemical Odor In Murray Hill

Nov 6, 2020


The Jacksonville Environmental Quality Division (EQD) is investigating a chemical smell in Murray Hill, which in some cases is manifesting in a visible plume that makes it difficult to breathe and stings the skin. Some residents have said this issue has persisted for years.

“It was like there was a fog over just our neighborhood,” Shane Brisentine explained during a Murray Hill Preservation Association (MHPA) meeting on Monday. “I was wheezing by the time I got home it was so bad.”

The EQD believes that some, if not all, of the odor is coming from International Flavors and Fragrances (IFF), however a full determination has not yet been made and the investigation is ongoing. The city currently has an enforcement referral package under review by attorneys, which could involve assessed penalties and enforced corrective actions for the company. 

Meanwhile, IFF has hired an outside consultant to conduct an odor study.

EQD Chief Melissa Long said they are working with the company to find out exactly what is causing the odor and what the remedies might be.

“We do not have that remedy. It's something that has to come from the company or other experts from that type of field,” she explained. “I wish I could say it could happen tomorrow, but in all likelihood it's going to take a little bit of time.”

City Councilwoman Randy DeFoor believes there is a criminal component to the situation. During Monday’s MHPA meeting, DeFoor said she thinks IFF is deliberately releasing the odor causing chemicals when EQD is not available.

“They do it early in the morning and they do it late at night, knowing that you guys [EQD] aren't available. And you have to respond within four hours, which obviously you can't, and then when they do it, by the time you get there it's all gone,” she said, echoing the concerns of her constituents. “They [IFF] know it. There's no doubt in my mind.”

But as Long explained, the odor being more noticeable in the early morning and at night could be the result of temperature inversion - that’s when a layer of cool air at the surface is trapped by a layer of warmer air above. The inversion acts like a cap, preventing the upward movement of air from the layers below - limiting the diffusion of air pollutants.

“There is some inversion that happens at nighttime. It kind of keeps that odor down towards the surface of the earth more, and then as the daylight comes, it kind of lifts up and it goes up higher where you can't smell it anymore,” Long explained. “Doesn't mean it's gone, it's just not where you can smell it.”

Even though the enforcement process is already underway, Long is encouraging residents to continue calling 630-CITY if they experience an objectionable odor in the area.

Brendan Rivers can be reached at brivers@wjct.org, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.