ANJ Investigates

INVESTIGATES: ‘Stink study’ suggests local fragrance factory is still not passing the smell test

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — International Flavors and Fragrances, or IFF, is asking a judge on Wednesday to dismiss a class-action lawsuit filed by neighbors

Connie Jo Gandy enjoys her garden, but not everything is coming up roses.

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“It smells like a solvent?” Action News Jax Ben Becker asked Gandy.

“That’s the best I can describe it,” she said.

Gandy is among many others who are raising a stink with the City of Jacksonville.

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“They told me they have been able to trace it back several times to the plant over on Lane Avenue,” said Gandy, who is talking about the IFF factory on the Westside.

In October 2021, Action News Jax first reported about the lawsuit, city cease-and-desist orders and thousands of complaints claiming chemical smells were coming from the factory that produces ingredients for common household items like soap and toothpaste.

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Then in February 2022, the city placed 13 so-called “stink meters” around Jacksonville, including in Murray Hill and Riverside areas to find the source of the smell.

“Is IFF a contributor?” asks Adam Hoyles, who is on the Jacksonville Environmental Protection Board. “The data suggests that. But there are other contributors as well.”

The preliminary data from one “stink meter” near IFF shows elevated levels of volatile organic compounds or VOCs -- which can include paint, turpentine and gasoline, according to one sample from the first week of August.

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More data shows what the study calls a “Pollution Rose”-- with colors that stretch the farthest, indicating the smell and stink are stretching toward Murray Hill and Riverside.

“Got to realize there are other sources,” said Hoyles, who believes it’s too early to point the finger entirely at IFF. “Someone could be in back yard using spray paint, you’re going to pick that up too.”

Becker emailed the city about those IFF cease-and-desist orders. which included verified odor complaints at 16 homes in late 2021.

IFF could face fines up to $10,000 per day of violation.

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Becker pressed the City numerous times to find out if IFF has been fined and at this time, it appears they have not been.

Local neighbors aren’t waiting, though -- they’re filing a class-action lawsuit that goes before a judge. IFF is asking to dismiss the case after a previous lawsuit in federal court was dismissed in June 2021.

IFF spokesperson Michael Munz sent Becker a statement:

“We take very seriously our commitment to ensure that our environmental, health and safety practices are best-in-class, that we comply with all laws, and that we operate with integrity as an employer, community member and a good neighbor. Throughout more than 20 years of operation at our Jacksonville plant, we have utilized robust monitoring processes to ensure that we are preventing odor and complying with all of our permits and applicable laws. We are fully cooperating with the City of Jacksonville, and remain in communication with the City regarding complaints of objectionable odors.”

“If the chemical is out, it stops me dead,” said Gandy, who is not part of the lawsuit. “If that [IFF] is where the pollution is coming from, they really need to stop it because it’s affecting our enjoyment of our home, which is such a great place to live, don’t want to miss out.”

Action News Jax First Alert Chief Meteorologist Mike Buresh said the smell could get worse as the weather gets colder because of inversions at night that could trap any released gases closer to the ground.

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