Water experts says smell in Iona is likely gas produced by decaying sea life

Reporter: Gail Levy Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
Credit: WINK News.

People in parts of the Iona community of Lee County say a smell in public is so bad it’s making them physically ill. We’ve taken calls and read emails all about it. Many don’t know where the smell is coming from or what it is. A water expert told us it’s dead fish and/or other sea creatures that are decomposing nearby.

Michael Parsons, with The Water School at FGCU, has a pretty good idea what’s happening. He says the horrible smell is hydrogen sulfide, a gas that is produced when organic matter breaks down.

“It could be animals; it could be algae,” Parsons said. “A lot of times, we get algae filled up. Sometimes just the muck itself has a lot of, you know, like leaf litter and just little pieces of any kind of organics.”

Parsons said it’s a good the bacteria is breaking down. But it’s not good if people are exposed to the stench for long periods of time.

“Prolonged exposure can cause lightheadedness and dizziness,” Parsons said. “Some people may even start feeling nauseous.”

People who wake up to this every day in Iona told us they’re now coughing and getting headaches.

“We moved to Florida, for a lot of us for our health, to feel better,” Micki Suzanne said. “And you’re moving to the beach because you expect paradise.”

Suzanne is used to some of the natural smell from the environment near her home, but she says what she and others have experienced recently is beyond the average smell.

“I’ve described the normal mangrove smell as urine being filtered through old coffee grounds,” Suzanne said. “This is 10 times that.”

“It gets so bad to the point where you want to wear your mask,” Emma Poloney said. “It’s hard to breathe. You start coughing.”

It’s not people alone who are feeling the effects.

“My dog went into a spasm a couple of weeks ago, which was extremely upsetting,” Suzanne said. “And then she developed a horrible cough … The fact that I could not get her cough to stop, we wound up shutting the condo up.”

That’s the best advice if the stench is making you sick: Get inside and keep the windows closed.

Parsons told us the smell likely won’t subside until the wet season arrives or what’s rotting in the water finally breaks down.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Mike Parsons, with The Water School at FGCU, did not go to the site WINK News reported about regarding public odor bothering community members in the Iona area. Parsons responded to information WINK News gathered and brought to his attention. His response is not based on personal findings. 

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