SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY (CBS13) – Residents in in a subdivision just south of the city of Escalon say the sewer smell is making them miserable.

“Oh my gosh. What is that smell?” asked Alison Davis, a resident.

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In a pristine and pricey Del Rio subdivision outside Escalon, irritation is in the air.

“It is nauseating,” said resident Naresh Channaveerappa.

The odor is so foul that neighbors don’t dare set foot outside or open their windows.

What exactly does it smell like?

“It smells like a cross between tomatoes and sewer,” said resident Michelle Irvin.

“Like…like excrement, you know?” said Davis.

The culprit sits a mere mile to the north, just across the Stanislaus River: sewer ponds filled with wastewater. Wind sends the sickening stench wafting into the subdivision.

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“It is intermittent, but when it is here, you can’t be outside, you can’t have friends over. It’s embarrassing!” said Davis.

And unfortunately, this is nothing new. People in one neighborhood have complained about the vile stench dating back nearly two decades.

It got really bad in 2003, when the state water boards sent the city of Escalon a cease-and-desist order for foul smells emitting from the sewer ponds.

The wastewater primarily comes from two driving forces of Escalon’s economy: its leading employer, Escalon Premier Brands — a tomato processing plant — and Eckert Cold Storage, where bell peppers are cooked and frozen.

After the 2003 order, steps were taken and complaints calmed down…until now.

“In a 1-to-10 scale, the intensity is probably 10,” said Channaveerappa.

As a result, the state sent Escalon another violation notice demanding the “putrid odor” must be “controlled immediately.”

“Fix whatever the problem is, and fix it permanently,” said Davis.

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The city did not return our calls today, but told the Modesto Bee it promised to cooperate with the state’s demands, including hiring an expert to evaluate the problem and coming up with a plan to fix it by the end of the month.