SOUTH EL MONTE — A 20-foot-high, 100-foot-long mountain of dead plants has been piled near the Whittier Narrows Equestrian Center so long, some people in the area think it is a natural hill. “I just thought it was a mountain,” said Barbara Grand, a new horse trainer at the center. But those with a little history know better. “It’s been there for about — at least three years,” said Doug Leak, who lives at the nearby Pellissier Village Equestrian District. “The (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) dredged the river out, and whoever they contracted to do it must have run out of money, because half of the stuff from the dig just got piled up and left here.” AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREThe top 10 theme park moments of 2019 Pellissier Village is a small unincorporated neighborhood just east of the Equestrian Center where residents are allowed to keep horses. People who live in the village do most of their riding in the Whittier Narrows area. Leak and others who live in the Equestrian District say the hill of rotting plants is ugly, smelly, dangerous and home to vermin. They want it removed. “Oh God, it’s nasty, especially when it rains,” Leak said. “We have horse shows in the arena right there, and it used to be really nice. People would park under pine trees, there were wood chips on the ground. It was a nice, clean, level area. Now it’s just an eyesore. It’s been there so long, more of the bamboo-looking plants are starting grow out of the dead ones.” Those bamboo-looking plants are Arundo donax, a tall, hardy species considered a weed because it takes over areas that used to have native shrubs. It also sucks up water that would have been used for drinking-water supplies. In an effort to give native plants a chance to thrive in the nearby Rio Hondo riverbed, the Army Corps about three or four years ago hired a crew to remove the Arundo donax, said Jay Field, a spokesman for the Los Angeles District of the Army Corps. “It’s a pest, so our project was to remove about three square miles’ worth,” he said. The contractor removed more of the plants than Army Corps officials expected, so the contract did not cover all the disposal costs, Field said. “Our fiscal year (ended) … Sept. 30, so we are … looking at different alternatives of what to do with any money left in our budget,” he said. “We are going to try to find a way to get rid of the pile.” Getting rid of Arundo donax can be tricky, he said. “We have to be careful of how we dispose of it, because it is so invasive it can take over an area,” he said. As for why it has been left so long, Field said it was not a major priority since the Army Corps also maintains bridges, machinery and dams in the area. “It’s more an eyesore than anything,” he said. “But we certainly recognize the concern by people in the area. We want to get rid of it.” Leak said the residents have waited long enough. “I hope they get it before the rainy season,” he said. “It blocks the natural flow of water down into the Rio Hondo, and it creates a big mud pit at the base of the hill.” Ben Baeder can be reached at (626) 962-8811, Ext. 2703, or by e-mail at [email protected] local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!