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SLUDGE VICTIMS

May 2001 update - compiled by Helane Shields - prepared for WWW by ESRA

Residents win court fight

AGNES DIGGS Staff Writer

TEMESCAL CANYON ____ It was almost like a breath of fresh air for Diana Schramm, who learned unofficially Tuesday that she and her Temescal Canyon neighbors have apparently prevailed in their legal battle against a composting plant. The group filed 37 individual small-claims lawsuits against Synagro Technologies Inc. for $5,000 each, the maximum allowable amount, charging the company with creating a public nuisance.

A clerk at the Riverside County Superior court in Corona who declined to be identified confirmed the 37 cases were settled, although no official notices have been sent yet.

"All the plaintiffs have won their cases," he said. "Looks like they got the amount they asked for."

A delighted Schramm said, "It's just so nice to see that the courts work. The odor for the last 11 years has been like an open septic tank. That's what it would smell like, and it was insufferable. "

Residents accused Synagro of creating a nuisance with the odor that is a by-product of the company processing tons of sewage sludge per day. Sewage treatment plants supply the sludge, which is processed into biosofid products used to fertilize crops.

The odor permeated their homes, their clothing and their lives, Schramm said,

"We would express our frustration to these people, Synagro, that the odor was so intense that it was burning our eyes, burning our noses, burning our throats. It was so frustrating," she said. "They just didn't seem to care about us."

After years of complaining to the county and Synagro officials, Schramm said, she and her neighbors finally ran out of patience. Last summer, they began doing research in the law library downtown and, based on the definition of a public nuisance, decided they probably had a case. Together, they helped each complete the necessary paperwork, collect the money for filing fees and filed their individual suits.

The judge heard their cases during a three-day period beginning Dec. 12. Part of the evidence presented against Synagro included documentation from the County Environmental Health Department's "odor patrol," which monitors foul odor complaints.

Contact staff writer Agnes Diggs at (909) 676-4315, Ext. 262 1, or adiggs@nctimes.com.

CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 7. 2001 - SLUDGE VICTIMS WIN SMALL CLAIMS LAWSUITS AGAINST SYNAGRO TECHNOLOGIES. - SLUDGE ODORS BURNED EYES, BURNED NOSES, BURNED THROATS. ODORS PERMEATED HOMES, CLOTHING AND LIVES.

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