A foul odor that has caused consternation among Rockland Key residents abutting the Anchor Towing company is on the way out.
The intermittent stench had been wafting into the Calle Uno area, leading some of those affected to call county code enforcement.
The stink was caused by the opening of a container stored on the Anchor property, which contains a "shark repellent" solution devised by Florida Keys Community College instructor Patrick Rice to reduce shark bycatch in commercial fishing.
The repellent contains bits and pieces of dead sharks and a number of chemical compounds. It is being funded by an ongoing grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The solution had previously been stored on the FKCC campus, but was moved out to Rockland Key when construction began on the Lagoon Landing dormitory project as it was determined that the student residents would likely be exposed to the funky fumes.
Last week, Lower Keys Senior Code Compliance Officer Nancy Dowling paid a visit to Anchor. Dowling is restricted from commenting to the press on ongoing cases, but her notes from the field are posted at http://egov.monroecounty-fl.gov/eGovPlus/code/code_dtl.aspx?case_no=CE14....
"Received a call this morning from Ashley from Anchor Towing to let me know the tenant was going into the container to secure everything inside so he could have it moved from the property," Dowling wrote. "And (sic) also wanted me to know that because of him opening the container that I may received (sic) another complaint for the smell. He also told me that he will be moving it as soon as possible."
Part of the problem, Rice said, is that his research assistant, whom he did not name, has no sense of smell.
"It makes him perfect for the job, but unfortunately, I guess it also makes him less sensitive to the smell that other people are having to deal with," said Rice, whose many titles include principal investigator for marine research at FKCC.
Rice added that he is currently searching for a storage location that will be remote enough that the fetor will not be an issue. However, the location must have a power supply, as the repellent is refrigerated.
Meanwhile, the clock is ticking. Dowling has a return visit planned for May 22. If the container is still on site at that point, code has other avenues to explore. No fines will be levied, but a process will begin that could ultimately result in financial sanctions, if so determined, by a special magistrate.
Dowling, however, said she doubted that it would go that far, pointing to the cooperation she had received thusfar from the parties involved in the case.
The repellant is one of three that Rice has devised to try to save sharks from being unintentionally caught. Last year, the six-year FKCC employee was featured on the PBS television show NOVA discussing his invention.
"The original discover was that sharks don't like the smell of dead rotting sharks," Rice said Friday, "So, the grant that we were working with from NOAA basically was designed to take the dead bycatch generated during commercial fishing, to turn into shark repellent, and then apply it during commercial fishing to reduce bycatch. "It's a negative feedback, basically. However, we're now using synthetic compounds to achieve this goal."