Fertilizer smell prompts complaints from Escondido club neighbors

ESCONDIDO - Residents near the now-defunct Escondido Country Club are crying foul after chicken manure was dumped on the property along their backyards.

“First we had the dead grass and now we have the smell,” said Sue Miller, who moved into her retirement home on the sixth fairway less than two years ago.

“I have an 87-year-old mother that lives with me that is having troubles breathing. I have a next-door neighbor who is pregnant, and she can’t even open her sliding glass doors in the evening when she’s cooking dinner because of the smell.”

One resident who is suffering from a form of cancer said he was forced to leave his home for several days to escape the strong stench that he said made his eyes water and his throat burn.
               
Residents say workers began spreading the chicken manure April 4, and continued for several days despite residents’ complaints to both to the property owner, Stuck in the Rough, LLC, and the San Diego County Pollution Control District.
               
By late Thursday, inspectors with the Pollution Control District had responded to 27 complaints, according to Director Robert Kard.
               
Kard told 10News inspectors determined it was a level 5 stench, which is the highest on his department’s scale.  As of Thursday, three notices of violation had been issued to Stuck in the Rough.  
              
Kard said if the odor was not taken care of, he was prepared to go to court to seek injunctive relief for the homeowners.  His agency could also fine the golf course owner $10,000 per day until the smell is gone.
               
Homeowners believe the pungent fertilizer was dumped in retaliation for their efforts to stop a proposed plan to build 400 homes on the former golf course.
               
“You don’t use fertilizer to grow houses,” said Paul DeLaurentis, who lives on David Drive. DeLaurentis pointed out that the golf course hasn’t been watered all year, and added that fertilizer that strong will only kill what’s left.

“We feel like this is a type of harassment,” he said.
               
Stuck in the Rough provided this statement to 10News Thursday:
 

“Stuck in the Rough, LLC is presently abating the fertilizer based upon the complaints it was now made aware of. Again, it apologizes for any discomfort by any residents.  The general nuisance laws have never specified that fertilizing plants and trees located on a former golf course with nationally approved fertilizer would run afoul of any local or state regulation.  Therefore, it was not something that any former golf course owner would ever be aware of.  Due to the sensitive issues regarding this former golf course, unfortunately, the relationship between the boundary owners and the former course owners has become exacerbated.  

“Since Stuck in the Rough, LLC, wants a good relationship with its closest neighbors, it is moving quickly to resolve this odor problem. The issue of smell, nuisance, and fertilizer on vacant land, prior to yesterday, was not something that was a recognized collateral consequence of fertilizing existing plants and trees. The natural compound that was placed on the former course is sold across America and improves the soil quality. Due to the above, there will no further enhancement of the soil with this product.”

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