Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Carmel on the Case: Midnight Express
One of the nice things about life in South Florida is the opportunity to spend lots of time outside, but in one neighborhood, go out to smell the roses, and you're going to smell something else. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is on the Case.
WSVN -- Patricia McKeown and her husband spend hours maintaining flowering plants and beautiful trees.
Patricia McKeown: "I like my backyard. Of course we like to garden."
But recently a powerful smell has taken over, and it's not coming from the flowers.
Patricia McKeown: "You don't want to breath it. It's strong and can last anywhere from an hour or two, up to all day."
Midnight Express, a boat building company, moved in next door. It manufactures fiberglass boats. Neighbors can see employees in work bays wearing protective suits and masks, so, they wonder, how safe it is for them to breathe in the fumes.
Patricia McKeown: "Makes it hard to breathe. It's like smelling glue all day."
The chemical in question is called Styrene, and it is causing concern throughout the neighborhood of Twin Lakes in Fort Lauderdale.
Heath Allison: "Even my little one, she's 5 years old, will go outside and say, 'Mom, it's a bad warehouse day,' and she would come back inside."
There was a hearing after 90 complaints were filed with Broward's Environmental Protection Department.
Clifton Bittle: "We observed relatively strong styrene odors especially at the door on the south side of the warehouse complex where the manufacturing is located."
The County issued a warning.
Alexander Hernandez: "They were supposed to come up with some sort of solution. When I felt that wasn't being done, that's when I went out and wrote this up."
Clifton Bittle: "Their facility did not comply with the warning notice."
The County says it did three separate inspections at the facility. On all three days, inspectors found an "objectionable odor." That lead to a notice of violation.
Daphne Jones: "The investigation was started on Feb. 14."
At an administrative hearing in May, Midnight Express attorneys argued that Broward County inspectors did not use scientific methods to check levels of Styrene emissions.
Bill Spencer: "Has not ever measured, by any reliable testing method, levels of Styrene or levels of concentration."
And the company told the County it has installed a system to reduce the odors. Twin Lakes residents testified they don't want the business to go away, they just want the smell to go away.
Heath Allison: "I want them to be successful. I'm happy for them, but I don't appreciate it when it affects my quality of life."
After days of testimony, hearing examiner Rene Clark decided the company had violated the County code.
She found the fumes "unreasonably interfered with the comfortable use and enjoyment of life or property."
Carmel: "As a result, the company faces about $8,000 in fines. However, Midnight Express is appealing, so this issue remains up in the air.
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