ST. PETERSBURG — State Sen. Darryl Rouson wants the state to launch its own investigation into the odor that residents say has for decades befouled the Childs Park neighborhood.
The smell, seemingly emanating from the industrial corridor that cuts through the predominately Black neighborhood, has long bothered residents — it may have been present as far back as the 1970s — but has come to the fore through the efforts of the neighborhood association, researchers and city officials to raise awareness and encourage residents to report odors. The Pinellas County Air Quality Division, the agency responsible for local air quality regulation, began investigating the issue in the spring.
In the letter addressed to Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Shawn Hamilton, Rouson noted that the industrial corridor sits near the neighborhood’s park and recreation center, as well as Fairmount Park Elementary, where the odor has forced teachers to cut recess short. Rouson asked that the state install air-quality monitors in the area and definitively answer whether the odor is associated with emissions that could cause chronic health problems.
Even non-toxic odors can cause mental and physical health effects, including those often reported by residents: headaches, nausea, sinus irritation.
“It is imperative that all the residents of St. Petersburg be assured that the state is doing its part to make sure the air quality index is safe,” Rouson wrote in the letter, addressed Aug. 30.
Sheila Schneider, head of the Pinellas County Air Quality Division, said in an email Thursday that her agency is continuing to work with the city’s Office of Sustainability and Resilience to inspect industrial facilities and talk to area businesses. The county’s complaint system has also been simplified, she said. Earlier this year, the city and neighborhood association created a complaint form for residents, after several said they found the county’s system difficult to use.
In the past few months, small air monitors that measure particulate matter have been purchased by the city and posted in several locations around Childs Park, most recently at Fairmount Park Elementary.