Mysterious odor from Miami condo makes residents sick

Article Courtesy of Channel 7 News Miami
By Patrick Fraser

Published August 11, 2017


It’s a smell that’s hard to describe and impossible to eliminate. It’s coming from a condo in Miami, and no one can figure out what making the residents sick. What can they do? One suggestion that works: call Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

In 19 years of doing Help Me Howard, we had never heard of a problem like this.

Patrick Fraser: “You can smell it.”

Jose Matos: “Yeah.”

A three-story condo building in Miami that stinks.

Patrick Fraser: “So it’s the whole building.”


Jose Matos: “Yes.”

Patrick Fraser: “But the first floor is the worst.”

Jose Matos: “Yes.”

You can smell it a little out near the sidewalk, and much worse inside the River Village Condos.

Chabeli Prieto: “It’s wretched, man. I’m talking about ‘stank!'”

For the past three months, the odor has filled the air here.

What does it smell like? Depends on who you ask.

Mayra Chavez: “Like old dishwater.”

Male resident: “Like eggs.”

Jose Matos: “Something like when you open a sewer.”

Jose Doce, property manager: “It’s not a sewer smell. It’s completely different.”

They brought in people to look for mold and check the air conditioners in the three-story building.

Jose Matos: “They came, they checked everything. They couldn’t find anything.”

Plumbers ran cameras through the sewer lines looking for leaks and said they found nothing.

Jose Doce: “They don’t have an idea. The only thing the plumbers agree on: It’s not a sewer smell.”

It’s so bad in Jose’s apartment, he runs a fan to blow the air out. He also wears a mask.

His wife, who suffers from asthma, has been rushed to the hospital.

After fire rescue was called, one official wrote, “Some residents are sleeping inside the vehicles because of the odors.”

Mayra Chavez: “Sometimes we have to go outside and sit on the stairs, ’cause I live by the stairs.”

Residents have asked Miami-Dade County and the City of of Miami to see if they could find out what’s creating the smell. No one has been able to figure it out.

Chabeli Prieto: “Sometimes we just stand on the balcony, and we look out, and we hope for the best, but the best never comes.”

Well, Howard, if you can’t figure out what’s causing the problem, how can you determine who’s responsible for correcting the problem?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News Legal Expert: “There are several ways to go, but start close to home. Meaning, since the smell is inside the building, the association and property manager need to keep investigating. It sounds like they’ve done almost everything they can, but they have to keep searching for that one person or agency that can uncover the problem.”

I contacted Miami-Dade Sewer and Water. To them it smelled like sewage gas.

In case the smell was coming from their lines, they put in odor blocks on a nearby manhole cover, but they knew that wouldn’t cause the problem inside the condos.

Sewer and Water then brought out a smoke test machine to pump non-toxic smoke into the sewer line. Across the street at another building, it came out from the plumbing vents, meaning there were no leaks in the lines at that property.

Back at River Village Condos, there were no leaks from the lines running to the building.

But inside, finally, the answer. In Jose’s unit, the smoke poured out beneath the sink. A sewage pipe in the wall is obviously leaking.

Upstairs, in another condo, another leaky pipe, as the bathroom filled with the smoke.

Three condos had smoke, meaning three pipes in the walls inside the building are leaking. Miami-Dade Sewer and Water finally discovered the problem no one could uncover.

Jose Matos: “I say hallelujah! We found the problem.”

The condo association now has to tear out some walls to repair the leaky pipes, but at least that disgusting smell will be gone.

Jose Matos: “I am grateful for the job you did with us, ’cause we need people like that, that solve any kind of problem.”

And the problem is solved. The repairs have been made, the residents say they don’t have any more odors, and they’re happy.

Now, if you have a similar problem, some plumbers have a smoke test device. Contact them. It’s a great way to find a leak.