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Middle Island Residents: Mulch Mountain Has Become A Stinking Nightmare

BROOKHAVEN, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- A Long Island community's fight against a smelly neighbor is proving to be an uphill battle -- a hill that has grown into a mountain.

Middle Island residents told CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff that a towering mountain of mulch, which backs up to their homes, has reached new heights.

Even on a frigid day, the stench looms.

"It's like sitting in the middle of an open, exposed cesspool," resident Barbara Carlson. "It's vile."

"Like a rotten sewer. It gets into your nostrils," neighbor Ken Anderson added.

"We have called it 'Mulchmare' because that's exactly what it is -- it's a nightmare made up of a mountain of mulch," said Gail Lynch-Bailey of the Middle Island Civic Association.

CBS2 first reported about the neighbors' concerns in December 2013 -- the stink, noise and fire hazard from a 40-foot-high and acres-wide mound of rotting leaves, twigs and grass.

"We have pools," Anderson said. "We entertain a lot. That has all stopped.

"You close your doors, it creeps in the house," he added.

Civic organizations say they've taken all the right steps, repeatedly contacting elected officials and government agencies. But a year later, nothing has been done.

"The mulch is winning," Anderson said.

"Once it went to the court system, we feel like it went down this giant rabbit hole," Lynch-Bailey said.

The property is zoned residential, but the owner of Swezey Farm Nursery has argued the family farm predates zoning laws and has been mulching there for a century -- long before the homes were built.

An attorney for the business declined to speak on camera, but told CBS2 it is installing a fire hydrant in an effort to reduce any fire hazard.

Aerial photos seems to show the pile morphed into a massive mound after Superstorm Sandy.

"A family farm doesn't go border to border within a hundred feet of residents homes, with towering piles of foul-smelling compost," said Robert Calica, Brookhaven town's special counsel hired to shut down the mulching operation

Calica said he is also frustrated by the pace of the courts.

"A case like this calls out for urgency because of the public health and public safety emergency," he said.

The town is urging the court to to rule before warm weather returns, making the stench and fire danger even worse.

There were six fires on the property in the last two years.

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