Odor violation: Polk County soil farm fined thousands of dollars for foul smell

Polk County

LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) — A facility that turns trash and human waste into soil has been fined thousands of dollars after years of being blamed for a foul smell in Polk County.

Polk County officials released a statement Wednesday announcing that BS Ranch and Farm was found to be in violation of the county’s land development code for “off-site odors.” A Polk County Code Enforcement Special Magistrate entered the order from December 2019 code enforcement hearings.

“As part of the order, the Special Magistrate imposed a fine of $11,000 per day for each of eight days on which off-site odor violations were substantiated to be emanating from their property,” a county spokesperson said.

Neighbors and business owners who lived near the facility previously told 8 On Your Side they were fed up and wanted it shut down. BS Ranch turns trash and human waste into soil.

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

The county cited the company in 2017, telling them they needed to do a better job of containing the odor.

County commissioners had approved the facility, described by owners as a “large-scale composting operation,” at the beginning of 2017 and claimed the company assured them the odor would be contained. Just months later, a county attorney worked to obtain a cease and desist letter to shut down operations.

Several years later, in September 2019, the controversy took hold of the community yet again when Polk County Code Enforcement sent five new violations to BS Ranch and Farm.

“It looks like they’re mounting a witch hunt in my opinion against my client, blaming them for everything that creates an odor in Lakeland and that’s simply not accurate,” an attorney for the farm owner said at the time.

The situation was put in the hands of a special magistrate after a day-long hearing in December 2019 that saw attorneys for the farm debate with the county over the source of the smell. Members of the public also testified against the facility.

“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,” one resident said.

In the statement released Wednesday, a county spokesperson said “respondents to the order have 10 days from the issuance of this order yesterday to file a Notice of Appeal to the Polk County Special Magistrate.”

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