‘What is that smell?’: Nassau residents report stench along Amelia Concourse

FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. — Nassau County neighbors in the area of Amelia Concourse and SR 200 said there’s a strong stench that’s becoming unbearable.

“Any time I’m out jogging, I like to go around the block, and I can smell it,” Larry Rutland said. He lives in the Lofton Pointe subdivision off of Amelia Concourse.

“What is the source of the smell? And is it something that’s harmful to myself and obviously the kids,” Jason Cain, who lives in the same subdivision, asked.

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Neighbors described the odor as rotten eggs or sewage and said the smell has been ongoing for years but has gotten stronger over the past few months.

Now, more than 700 residents have signed a petition calling for action.

Nassau County is aware of the issue. A representative tells Action News Jax it’s from a ‘sludge site’ that’s been in the area for more than 20 years.

“The smell does fluctuate depending on the temperatures and rainfall. We reached out to the property owner and found out that they have recently had workers on site actively cracking the top layer of sludge to aid in drying out the site due to recent rains,” the county said in a statement. It went on to say in part, “They also indicated that they were aware of the citizen complaints and were working to address them by minimizing the disturbed area.”

The Department of Environmental Protection was at the site Nov. 3 and reported it is in compliance. Last week, the county manager requested that the DEP also investigate air quality and nuisance in the area.

The site is run by Rayonier Advanced Materials, the same company that owns a paper factory along Amelia River in Fernandina Beach.

Commissioner Aaron Bell said he visited the site Tuesday with a company representative.

He described the dumpsite at the corner of Amelia Concourse and SR 200 as a ‘giant compost pile.’ He said the smell comes from hydrogen sulfide, and crews were on-site conducting maintenance but have since stopped to let the odor air out.

Bell also said Rayonier Advanced Materials is waiting on approval from DEP to put down lime rock, which is expected to help the nasty stench.

A representative from Rayonier Advanced Materials said activity around the site combined with cooler temperatures and heavier rainfall, particularly from the recent nor’easter, led to the odor.

In an email they said, “We have made operational changes to limit material movement around the facility until the site is drier and we are studying long-term ways to mitigate the impacts of weather. We have also inspected the site, along with state and local officials, and confirmed it remains in full compliance with environmental regulations.”

Rayonier Advanced Materials has operated the facility since 1993.

Neighbors had several other theories. One suspicion was JEA’s Nassau water treatment facility across the street. But a representative said that’s not it.

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In a statement, JEA told Action News Jax, “The odor is not coming from JEA’s Nassau Water Reclamation Facility. JEA’s operations and maintenance team has determined that the plant is functioning properly and has no abnormal conditions. JEA takes environmental stewardship seriously. We are cooperating with regulatory agencies in their efforts to identify the source of the odor.”

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