Lakeland Uncovers Foul Odor’s Source, Faces Messy Cleanup

Lakeland Uncovers Foul Odor’s Source, Faces Messy Cleanup

LAKELAND — After a prolonged search spanning over a month, Lakeland officials have pinpointed the origin of a pungent odor plaguing Southwest residents. However, an arduous cleanup process lies ahead.

Lakeland’s Wastewater Management Division has identified a breach in a wastewater force main located in remote wetlands approximately 1,500 feet northeast of 5001 Gateway Boulevard. This area is situated east of industrial complexes along County Line Road and west of the Polk Parkway.

The 12-inch force main primarily serves the city’s industrial customers in the immediate vicinity, according to a city statement. The spill appears to be confined within approximately 100 acres of city-owned wetlands.

Russ Delaney, a resident of Carillon Lakes, had previously informed The Ledger about a sulfuric, natural gas-like odor permeating his neighborhood since the fall. Since early March, the scent has intensified and become more persistent, wafting down his street.

“I’m relieved. I thought we’d never find out,” he said. “I feared we’d have to endure this for years.”

The Odor Hunt

Delaney wrote an email to city commissioners on April 7, reporting the unbearable odor emanating from the northwest of Carillon Lakes. City Manager Shawn Sherrouse publicly acknowledged a multi-agency investigation to locate the source.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) deployed drones to conduct an aerial search for the potential cause, identifying the possible force main breach, according to city spokesperson Kevin Cook. The FDEP alerted city staff to its findings, prompting the mobilization of heavy equipment to navigate through the brush and gain access to the area.

The city does not have an exact estimate of the volume of wastewater released into the wetlands, according to a public notice of pollution filed with the FDEP around 1 p.m. on Monday. However, it estimates the amount to exceed 1,000 gallons.

The Fix

The city has hired an emergency contractor to install a line stop. The plan involves the contractor placing approximately 4,000 feet of bypass line to reroute the wastewater by Wednesday evening.

Lakeland will continue collaborating with the FDEP, Florida Department of Health, and other agencies regarding the spill and any required remediation efforts, according to a statement.

“I think people in our community will have their faith restored as we got an immediate response from the city commissioners,” Delaney said. “I’m impressed.”