A foul stench haunts the South Harbor Plaza near Port Everglades on SE 17th St. There's a Thai restaurant, a Carrabba's Italian Grill, a cafe, a dry cleaners, a cellphone provider, and other shops that couldn't emit that odor, which can only be described as human feces with subtle undertones of the chemicals used in a port-o-potty.
Russ Rector, a 68-year-old activist and longtime Fort Lauderdale resident, says it's bad for business. As much as he enjoys dining at Siam House, Rector explains that it's hard to build up an appetite after encountering the scent as he parks and saunters inside. As a result, he tries to avoid the plaza altogether or plugs his nostrils when he does decide to visit.
"It smells like poop, or actually, like someone took a pot of poop and put it in on the stove and tried to boil it," Rector tells New Times. "There are a bunch of restaurants [in the plaza], but no one is ever dining outdoors there and I don't blame them."
The smell has lingered at that plaza for years. It is especially pungent in the evening and at night. Several people who work there say it is strongest when the winds are blowing south; Rector believes that they're wafting from the City of Fort Lauderdale's George T. Lohmeyer Wastewater Treatment Plant.
The plant opened in 1986. Rector, who lives five minutes away, says the poop smell arrived soon after. As Fort Lauderdale grew in size, he says the plant had to treat more and more waste. Rector is a critic of deep-water injection wells and blames its practice for the smell. Since solids can't be buried underground with the partially treated water, he says the poop (and every other piece of waste flushed or that goes down the drain) has to be separated.
It wasn't as big of a problem at first, he says, when the surrounding area was less developed . But now, the plant is wedged between two shopping plazas: South Harbor Plaza to the south and Harbor Shops to the west. Rector fears that tenants underestimated the scent when they signed their leases and either grow used to the smell or are in denial.
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Moises Nolasco works at the plaza. When asked about the smell, he scrunches up his nose and shakes his head. "It's not there all the time, but once a week it's the worst," Nolasco says. "People ask and they don't know what it is."
A shop owner, who asked not to be identified because she fears speaking out will hurt business, has noticed the poop smell too. "It never comes in the store, but I can feel it in the mall," she says. "I never ask them what they do [at the plant]."
When asked about the poop smell, another woman who was quickly walking toward her car in the parking lot simply shrugged her shoulders: "The air always smells like that."
New Times reporters confirmed the smell on a recent weekday afternoon and then again in the evening.
Rector sums it up best: "You pay $100 for a meal, and you don't think that they're pumping shit where you eat... No one wants to talk about it."