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CAMARILLO : County Tells Farm to Control Odor

County officials may require a Camarillo-area farming operation to move several compost heaps from a 60-acre farm unless the company can control the strong odor from the compost before the end of the week.

Fairfield housing tract residents, whose homes are near the 300-foot-long compost piles at Conejo Ranch, have complained that the piles have created an overwhelming stench and have attracted thousands of flies. The farm is situated north of the Ventura Freeway at the base of the Conejo Grade.

“It’s awful,” said Helen Kosmala, a Fairfield resident and a member of the housing community’s board of directors. “Last night, I couldn’t get to sleep at all, it smelled so bad. We tried to have a birthday party outdoors on Saturday and we were covered with flies. It was pretty gross.”

Craig Underwood, part owner of Conejo Ranch, said his company has brought in about 15 tons of shredded paper, which will be used to stabilize the biochemical mix in the compost. The material, which is used by the farm as a natural fertilizer, is made up of decomposed avocados, lemons, various kinds of vegetables and lawn clippings.

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“We’re hoping the paper will work,” Underwood said. “We’ve tried covering the piles with plastic, but that didn’t seem to work. We want to fix this problem. We don’t want to be bad neighbors.”

Terrence Gilday, manager of the solid waste department of the county’s Environmental Health Division, said his department issued Conejo Ranch’s owners, Underwood Ranches, an order early last week to fix the odor problem.

“They are trying very hard to alleviate the problem,” Gilday said. “But if they can’t fix it, we may have to order them to relocate the (compost) piles.”

Gilday said his department will give Underwood until the end of this week before issuing orders to the farmer to remove the offending compost piles.

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