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Forget the Stench, Now Noise Arises as Nagging Problem for Carp Neighbor of Big Cannabis Grow

By Melinda Burns


The owners of one of the largest cannabis operations in the Carpinteria Valley, leaders in the effort to prevent the smell of pot from drifting into homes, now have turned their attention to a new problem: controlling noise.


Ed Van Wingerden, the owner of Ever-Bloom, a greenhouse operation with 11 acres of cannabis under cultivation at 4701 Foothill Road, was sued in 2020 for allegedly releasing “noxious odor” into the densely populated neighborhoods next door. One of the plaintiffs in the case was Paul Ekstrom, a retired firefighter whose property on Manzanita Street shares a backyard fence with Ever-Bloom.


In 2022, Van Wingerden, installed 110 expensive carbon filters called “scrubbers,” imported from the Netherlands, that are proven to remove most of the “skunky” smell of pot before it can escape through the roof vents. Ekstrom began to breathe fresh air again.


“They’ve done wonders on odor control,” he said this week. “It’s ninety-to-ninety-five percent better, a vast improvement, nothing compared to what it used to be.”


But the ink was barely dry on the lawsuit settlement papers last July when Ekstrom began firing off weekly emails to Ever-Bloom representatives, county planners, city officials, citizens’ groups, the local growers’ association and reporters with a new complaint: “LOUD noise.”


“I trust you are having a quiet and peaceful Sunday morning. Well, as you already know, I am not,” Ekstrom wrote in one. “I miss using my peaceful back yard and patio … Is this your standard of being a good neighbor?”


Ekstrom bought his house in 1976 when the property next door was a lemon orchard. Ten years later, the Van Wingerden family built Ever-Bloom and ran it for 30 years as a cut flower operation. Now the Gerber daisies have been replaced with cannabis.


“It is not fair for me to have to live with the 24 hour a day seven days a week intrusion,” Ekstrom said of the noise, noting that it began in late May.


Barely legal noise. Under the county’s cannabis ordinance, the noise level at the property line of a cannabis operation must not exceed 65 decibels.

In recent months, county planners said, they made numerous visits at different times of day, both announced and unannounced, to measure the noise levels along the southern property line that Ever-Bloom shares with Ekstrom’s cul-de-sac. They said they never recorded a reading louder than 60 decibels at the property line.


Inside the greenhouses, the planners, said, they did record readings of 69 or 70 decibels when standing right next to a fan.

In an email this week, Phil Greene, the president of Ever-Bloom, said the noise at the property line is indeed coming from the greenhouse fans and not the scrubbers. Fans are used to mix the air inside greenhouses and help homogenize the temperature and humidity, he said, adding, “This system has absolutely nothing to do with scrubbers.”


The company took several measures to lower the noise from fans in response to Ekstrom’s complaints, Greene said, and because “we felt the system was too loud” although the company was not exceeding the noise standard at the property line.

Ever-Bloom turned off its fans at night from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m., Greene said. The fans were mounted on rubber bushings to reduce any noise caused by vibration against the greenhouse walls. The sound-proof boxes for the fans were redesigned to further lower the noise at the property line below the county standard.

Also, he added, “We have tested a new fan and will be retrofitting the boxes with the new, even quieter fan.”


For Weed Wars, a rare happy ending. Since Thanksgiving, Ekstrom said, the noise level has improved and he’s stopped sending emails.


“I’m really happy with what they’ve done so far,” he said. “Things have calmed down there a lot. The noise is more like a little bit of a freeway hum, not an industrial hum.”


Earlier this year, the county also investigated a noise complaint from neighbors of Pacific Grown Organics, five acres of cannabis under cultivation at 5892 Via Real.

There are no scrubbers at this operation. For odor control, fans on one side of the interior of the greenhouse blow air toward a “misting” system located on the other side. Here again, county planners found no noise readings above 65 decibels at the property line.


Melinda Burns is an investigative journalist with 40 years of experience covering immigration, water, science and the environment. As a community service, she offers her report to multiple publications in Santa Barbara County, at the same time, for free.

Image: Paul Ekstrom near the fenced lot line he shares with Ever-Bloom (Melinda Burns).


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