BS Ranch attorneys, county debate source of foul smell in Polk County

Polk County

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A stinky situation in Lakeland is now in the hands of a special magistrate after a day-long hearing in a county boardroom.

At the hearing Thursday, attorneys for BS Ranch and Farm argued the county did not prove a foul smell in the farm’s neighborhood comes from their client.

Members of the public who filed complaints in September testified against the large-scale composting facility.

“It’s a mix of human feces and like a sour chemical odor,” said Kirk Sullivan, a business owner.

“It’s a terrible human waste smell. We can’t swim. We can’t grill out. We run in most often with our hands over our mouths and our noses because we literally gag. It’s horrific,” said Kathy Gore, who lives in a nearby neighborhood.

“The lawyers should go there and sit there and stay there and see what they have to say,” said Robert Hodgins, a resident, to reporters.

BS Ranch turns trash and human waste into soil. For years, it has been blamed for the stench.

This fall, Polk County code enforcement filed more than a dozen new odor ordinance violations against the farm.

Investigators use wind records and direction plus their sense of smell to trace the odor. They have never been allowed on the BS Ranch property.

“I describe the odor as a sewage smell but with a sour tint to it. From what the owner had told me, they take in juice, vegetables and expired juices,” said Mike Plavchak, certified code investigator.

The lawyers, who declined to comment and directed their clients to do the same, brought up other places nearby that could contribute to the smell.

“The Polk county landfill is east from BS Ranch’s operations correct?” asked Julie Ball, an attorney for BS Ranch.

“It is,” replied Plavchak.

“And FGUA (Florida Governmental Utility Authority) is also there?” asked Ball.

“It is south from there,” said Plavchak.

“It’s distinct from a landfill smell. It’s distinct from FGUA and distinct from a regular septic tank. It has a distinct odor that the owner of BS Ranch again has confirmed is coming from her property and their odor compliance officer has also confirmed it’s coming from their property,” Plavchak testified.

Ball also tried to poke holes in how the county conducted the investigation.

“Are we here today on five different odor events on 9/12? Are we here on one odor event? Because at least two of the odor events were determined not to be odor events at all,” said Ball.

BS Ranch has been previously cited by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which also filed a lawsuit against the organic soil farm.

Special Magistrate Tiffany Hawks will make her decision after a filing deadline on Dec. 19.

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