SOMETIMES LIFE STINKS: Canterwood Road Residents in La Verne Face a Lingering Problem

September 20, 2017
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LA VERNE, California, September 22, 2017 — Sometimes life stinks, and all you can do is wait for things to blow over.


That’s sort of the situation that residents living along Canterwood Road in La Verne are now facing.


Since at least last December, many residents along the hillside street that overlooks a canyon to the west began complaining about a noisome odor whose exact origin has been hard to pinpoint.


One resident who thought his house was the source of the sickening smell dug up an area around the sewer line extending from his house, but found his home wasn’t the culprit.


Another homeowner farther south on the street complained to her son that she smelled a gas leak, but after gas company representatives came out to inspect, they said they didn’t detect any leak.


But still the nauseating smell persisted, and as neighbors began talking among themselves, as neighbors often do, and found they shared a common complaint, they banded together and aired out their grievances before the La Verne City, many venting and fuming that the City Council had to get to the bottom of the problem.


The long hot summer only exacerbated the issue — some days more, some days less, depending on which way the wind was blowing.


To their credit, the city quickly got on the problem, believing that residents in any community have enough to worry about — like paying the mortgage and getting your kids to school on time — than having to agonize over whether they are going to get sick or blow up (think Aliso Canyon). Officials hired an outside engineer for help in determining the root cause of the wafting stench.


All signs are pointing to Creekside’s malfunctioning lift station as the source of the offensive odor.

After further investigation, the city believed the problem was traceable to a malfunctioning lift station that is part of the Creekside 22-unit home project being developed by Meritage Homes along San Dimas Canyon, where homes start at $1 million plus. Eight units are now occupied.


As background, a normally functioning pump is supposed to lift sewage up the hill and alongside the canyon and connect to La Verne city sewers. That said, engineers typically direct sewage downhill (basic physics), but it was determined years ago that in this unique case because of easement concerns with San Dimas, with whom La Verne shares the canyon, the sewage would flow uphill, necessitating a powerful pump.


The Creekside site, which is the former home of the Sturrock Christmas Tree farm, was originally going to be the grounds for a new church, but that proposal died, after which Meritage purchased the property for a housing development. One Canterwood Road resident even suggested that the reason for the bedeviling smell was that God was simply in a foul mood and acting out for not seeing His church built.


For its part, Meritage also hired an outside engineer to try to get answers. “We have never dealt with anything like this before,” said Rick Rush, a forward planning manager for Meritage.


The ridge in the background of the new development is Canterwood Road.

As sensible solutions were offered to try to remedy the problem, Meritage would implement them on a trial-and-error basis, including sealing some of the manhole covers along Canterwood in an attempt to cap and contain the rank air.


Currently, Meritage is waiting for a part that is expected fix the broken pump, once and for all, but the specialized part comes from the Midwest and has been slow to arrive. “It’s not as easy as picking out a part at your local Home Depot,” Rush explained.


In the interim, Heritage is pumping out the sewage daily and hauling away it away, an expensive and not altogether air-tight process. Some odors inescapably seep into the air. Again, it’s a law of physics.


As for the city, it isn’t issuing any further building permits. Meritage, however, can continue construction based on its existing permits.


Meanwhile, as Meritage’s profit margins are shrinking because of unforeseen costs, the residents are sitting tight. For the most part, they’ve been understanding, patient and pleased that communications between them and both the city and the developer have been open and responsive.


“The developer seems to be trying, the city seems to be trying; we’re hopeful,” said one resident.

Canterwood Road residents will breathe easier once the offending smell is corrected.

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