Brevard neighbors pushing back on muck removal behind homes as county asks for extension

Neighbors are fed up with muck removal happening in their backyards, as the county asks for another multi-year extension.  

For several years, Brevard County's "Save our Indian River Lagoon" initiative has been pulling muck - the seagrass killing substance - out of canals near homes, but the project just keeps getting delayed. 

After enduring for years, homeowners living nearby are worried about their health living so close to the construction site.

The noise from loud machines is what wakes homeowners up almost every day. 

"It’s just been banging, 6 o’clock, 6:30, they’re already turning on their engines shaking the house when they’re doing the excavation, "said Steve Diaz who hasn’t lived in his canal-facing home without the muck removal project underway. 

The noise isn’t what bothers affected homeowners the most.

"We come home in the afternoons, and the house is so full of a methane smell – we have to leave and go somewhere else on the weekends," said Jeromy Kendall who’s also frustrated with the ongoing project full of delays. 

The noise, smells, and large machines on full display from their back patio on the grand canal has been what's normal for the past four years.

"It’s been constantly since the day that I moved here," said Diaz. 

The $26 million project was supposed to remove 590,000 pounds of muck or the weight of 136 school buses, but it’s taking longer than expected.

A new letter from the county was recently sent to homeowners within 1000 feet of the muck removal. In the letter, officials say, the project had unanticipated delays, so they need to extend the work through 2028. 

"I’m not trying to say don’t save the lagoon. Just try to figure out different ways of doing it, not at the jeopardy of people’s lives and health," said Diaz. 

FOX 35 asked these homeowners if they do have concerns about their family’s health. 

Kendall says, "I do, like I said, we have to abandon our homes sometimes because the smell gets so bad. The methane smell gets so bad."

FOX 35 took these homeowner’s concerns to an environmental health advocate who’s been fighting to reduce pollution and toxins in Brevard County waterways for years. 

"This is like putting a landfill next to a community," said Stel Bailey, who founded the nonprofit Fight for Zero. 

Bailey says muck removal helps water quality, but she’s worried because the county is treating the contaminated water so close to people’s homes.

"I worry about what they’re being exposed to," said Bailey. "I’m just flabbergasted."

FOX 35 did reach out to the county for comment on the delays and extension, but at the time this article was published, we have not heard back. 

There’s a community meeting on April 25 from 5-7 p.m. at the Trinity Wellspring Church (638 S. Patrick Dr.) for anyone who wants to get involved with this issue. The county commission will have the final say on whether the muck removal will continue. That vote will happen in May.