8:17 p.m. EST, February 7, 2013
Neighbors of a recycling firm that turns vegetable scraps and fish remains into an organic pesticide are raising a stink over a noxious smell that some claim is causing breathing problems and chasing away business.
"The smell is unbelievable," said Dave Burke, who works at a tire shop across from the plant in the 1300 block of Southwest 2nd Street. "You breathe it into your lungs and you can't get rid of it."
Jeff Dillard said the odor is strong enough at times to induce vomiting. "We had four customers and two employees who walked out today gagging," said the owner of National Armory, the gun store and range just north of the plant. "Something has got to change."
That change is scheduled to come Friday when recycler Organic Dynamics faces a county deadline to finish installing and switch on a $150,000 fan.
Mounted on the company's roof, the fan is designed to take what even the company's father-and-son owners admit can be a pungent, unpleasant smell and blow it straight up into the heavens.
"It will work like a jet engine," said Steve Kafin, 62. "It mixes the air and shoots it 80 feet up."
As for the neighbors who have taken olfactory offense and filed more than 100 complaints with the county in the last year, Kafin said, "They are making it seem like more of a problem than it is."
For 18 months, Kafin and his son Sam, 34, have been battling Broward's Environmental Protection and Growth Management Department over air quality. In the past year the company has been fined $24,000 for failing to comply with county regulations.
"I have been out there," said department director Jeffery Halsey. "There is a pungent odor that smells like what it is — rotting food and decaying fish.
"The last thing we want to do is go to court to have a business cease operation," said Halsey. "But ultimately this has to be resolved. The patience of neighbors out there is wearing thin."
The Kafins said they are determined to resolve the problem so they can grow a business that is financially and environmentally green. Through contracts with Publix, Sysco and others, the company annually diverts 30,000 tons of food waste that would ordinarily go into landfills, said Steve Kafin.
That refuse is converted into 1 million to 2 million gallons of pesticide and fertilizer that is marketed as Soil Gourmet. The product is now sold to many Florida citrus and ornamental plant growers, said Kafin, and is expected to be available in retail outlets next year.
"This is the future of recycling and sustainability, converting organic waste into usable products that go back into agriculture," said Kafin, who employees 15 at the plant. "We're on the forefront of what we as a nation should be doing."
Dillard said supports recycling. He reuses shell casings. "But we have had enough," he said. "How many people have to get sick to stop this madness?"