The Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base wants to be a good neighbor.
Although some West Garden Grove residents have cried foul at the smell coming from mulch stockpiled there, officials say they strive to control the odor.
“We don’t want to be bad neighbors,” said base environmental officer Tom Tandoc, the point person for smell complaints. When residents call him, he looks into the problem “immediately,” and reports back what he finds.
He and other base officials met Wednesday with Garden Grove Councilmen Kris Beard and Steve Jones, along with representatives from Seal Beach, Los Alamitos and Cypress. They hashed out solutions to the smell, which can come when the woody mulch gets damp, then bakes in the sun. It makes prime conditions for stinky bacterial build-up, Tandoc explained, a common problem with the product.
“If you go out to Home Depot and dump that mulch in your backyard, it’s going to smell,” he explained.
Compounding the problem is the sheer amount of mulch on base. Although officials couldn’t provide exact numbers, they said they store enough to supply Disneyland and Anaheim Stadium, and for their own landscaping.
To prevent a stink, the contractor in charge of mulching, Agromin, stirs the piles a couple of times every weekday. That lets air in, and stops bacteria. But on weekends, they’re left unattended. That’s when the smell can build up, often leading to complaints on Monday mornings, according to Tandoc.
He and other officials are seeking solutions, such as covering the piles on weekends.
The base also may use a system that automatically pumps air through the mulch. Right now, that’s being tested in Oxnard.
But they also say the base is sometimes a scapegoat for nearly any bad odor. A few weeks back, a stench wafted all the way to the Vons on Valley View Street.
The culprit: mulch stored on the south side of the San Diego (Interstate 405) Freeway, where the Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station is home to a 2,000 acre farm.
Still, whatever the source, West Garden Grove resident Tony Flores feel like the bases are serving up an “odor minimization plan, not an odor elimination plan.”
“They’re telling residents ‘you’re going to have to live with this odor,’” he said.
Residents can report smells to Tom Tandoc at 562-795-2114 or to the public affairs office at the Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station at 562-626-7215.