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County Health Officials Order Worm Concern to Close Facility

October 30, 1994|MACK REED | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Amid a search for new quarters, The Worm Concern has been ordered by Ventura County health officials to shut down its composting facility near Moorpark.

The county's Environmental Health Division has slapped the business with an order requiring it to stop accepting the 100 tons per day of green waste that it feeds to worms. The worms convert the grass clippings, tree trimmings and other yard waste--collected by Simi Valley area trash haulers--into compost that the company resells for fertilizer.

The county order also demands that the company stop all composting activities and remove the compost from its site on Tierra Rejada Road by Dec. 31. The company faces fines of up to $10,000 per day if it fails to comply, the order says.

The Worm Concern has been looking for new quarters for several weeks, president Richard Morhar said.

"Originally, the county said they'd back off if we were going to move, but in the meantime, they've leaned on us even heavier," Morhar said Friday. "It's just tough to be a business in today's world. You try to do something good and right, and now this."

The company's neighbors have hired an attorney and a political consultant in a bid to force The Worm Concern out of the Tierra Rejada Valley, after they complained that smells from the compost caused them breathing problems, nausea and other ailments.

Steve Frank, the consultant, has begun circulating a questionnaire asking neighbors of The Worm Concern whether odors from the site are causing them health problems, or even lost time from work.

Frank said that he gave the questionnaire to 25 households within half a mile of The Worm Concern, and plans this week to give it to 60 more neighbors. The results will be turned over to the state and county health departments, he said.

The Worm Concern recently hired its own attorney to fight the cease-and-desist order so it will have ample time to move, Morhar said.

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