Thursday, Apr 17, 2014
News

Rat farm compost concerns 'invalid'

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BROOKSVILLE - An investigation by the county's Environmental Health Department regarding complaints raised by neighbors of a commercial rat, mice and rabbit compost farm in Brooksville, were determined invalid.

Environmental Health Manager Al Gray said he inspected the compost piles on the property Friday morning that were the reported source of noxious odors causing nausea, headache, sinus and respiratory problems.

"We saw the compost pile that was near the (neighbor's) property line; however. I could not smell anything or see any flies, no odors or flies at all," Gray said. "There is not a sanitary nuisance out there right now, and it doesn't meet the statute's definition of sanitary nuisance. I was right on top of the compost mounds and didn't smell anything."

Neighbors and complainants of the agriculturally zoned property, Linda Armstrong and her son, James, shared Gray's opinion about the odors lacking Friday morning.

"He's been cleaning up," James Armstrong said. "This is not that bad. I don't know what he did to get rid of it."

A visit to Armstrong's property Friday morning where the compost pile of concern backs up to, showed a significant difference in smell, and without symptoms of nausea, headache or turning stomach experienced by a reporter who visited the site on Thursday.

The compost pile smelt like normal compost, and the height and appearance had changed from a visit the previous day.

"He had to have done something to it, because usually when he turns it over the smell is the worst," said James Armstrong. "It gets that dead body smell. It'll get worse when he fills up. He knows we're on to him, so he's cleaning up pretty good.

"That actually helps, though."

Gray said the compost pile by Armstrong's property was wet, but that other piles on the farm were completely dry.

He also said he asked the farm owner not to expand the compost pile toward Armstrong's property line and to instead move it further onto the owner's property.

"I called Mrs. Armstrong and looked at the mound from her property, and she's very frustrated, I understand that," Gray said. "But I got to write down my observations, and my observation is it's not a sanitary nuisance."

The Armstrongs have expressed concern of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, or HPS, which is a fatal airborne illness that is spread when virus-containing particles from rodent urine, droppings or saliva are stirred into the air, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Infection occurs when you breathe in the virus particles, according to the CDC.

The airborne virus has a mortality rate of 38 percent, according to the CDC.

"It's just like a gun pointed at us, it's a deadly disease," Armstrong said. "I don't really have anything against (the farmer), because the county is not helping us, and the property value is worth virtually nothing because nobody is going to want to live here."

mreinig@hernandotoday.com

(352) 544-5271

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