LARGO — The residents of Paradise Island mobile home park have smelled it. But they did not cause it.
That was what a $60,700 study concluded, settling once and for all a yearslong disagreement between Paradise Island park manager Nancy Perry and Largo City Manager Mac Craig over who's to blame for the funky smell that periodically blankets the 828-unit park.
The study, summarized last week for the City Commission, puts the blame on the city's wastewater system. Which is what Perry has been saying for two years.
"Do I feel vindicated? Yes, I do," Perry said. "I pinpointed the problem. And I feel very good about that."
When Perry first complained in 2010, Craig told her the problem had to be in Paradise Island's private lines because Largo spends hundreds of thousands of dollars each year on odor control for its wastewater system. The odor control works by neutralizing the chemical that causes sewage stink: hydrogen sulfide.
Staff from Webster Environmental Associates, a Louisville, Ky., company that specializes in odor control, still found high levels of hydrogen sulfide in the city sewer system near Paradise Island, 1001 Starkey Road.
Webster Vice President J.W. "Buz" Rush told commissioners several factors create the high levels of hydrogen sulfide, including a lift station not far from the park. Lift stations are spots where pumps move wastewater through low-lying areas because gravity doesn't do the trick.
"Any time you have a lot of splashing and turbulence," Rush told the commission, "that's when hydrogen sulfide is released."
The city will enact a number of short-term fixes over the next six months that cost about $10,000, said City Engineer Leland Dicus. Among them: trying different odor control chemicals and making design improvements to the city's wastewater system in the area.
City staff will also incorporate the study's findings into more expensive long-term improvements. Largo is making those improvements to its wastewater system already as part of a 2006 consent order from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for violating federal and state regulations.
Dicus did not say, however, whether Largo will reimburse Paradise Island $15,000 Perry says the park spent repairing corrosion in private sewer lines that caused a sinkhole in 2009. Perry says more repairs are needed, and she said her park will spend another $15,000 to $20,000 to fix corrosion caused by hydrogen sulfide from Largo's system.
Craig said he will meet with Perry to discuss a resolution.
"We are willing to work out something that both sides can live with," he wrote in an email.
Perry is happy the city paid for the study and hopes the recommended fixes to the city's sewer lines work.
"We're watching the situation," she said, "as it flows along."
Will Hobson can be reached at (727) 445-4167 or firstname.lastname@example.org.