MONCTON, N.B. — A bizarre feud over Lee Murray's massive pile of manure has left the New Brunswick farmer steaming mad.
The ugly quarrel with Murray's next-door neighbours, the Gallants, made international headlines this week when a judge ordered he pay them $17,000 in costs and damages, saying he had used his tractor to build a fetid wall of feces along the Gallants' property line to make them miserable.
Murray, who has lived all his life on Indian Mountain near Moncton, N.B., said Thursday he is planning to file an appeal.
"There was a lot of questions my lawyer didn't ask in court,'' he said in an interview from his home. "I've been self-employed all my life and this is the worst mess I've ever been into. This is nuts.''
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Murray, a cattle farmer, said his family got along just fine with Joan and David Gallant until about six years ago, when Joan Gallant complained about getting too much of the Murrays' junk mail.
"It was downhill after that,'' Murray said.
At the centre of the dispute is the Gallants' assertion that Murray and his son deposited hundreds of loads of raw cow manure on a strip of land adjacent to the Gallant property in November 2013.
"He was just roaring across with the tractor and the windows were shaking in the house,'' David Gallant said in an interview, adding that the pungent dumping continued into the wee hours.
Pile was 18 metres long and 13 metres wide
The pile eventually grew to be about 18 metres long, 13 metres wide and as high as his nearby three-car garage, David Gallant said.
He said the smell was so bad, he couldn't stay in the building.
"I almost couldn't make it out the door,'' he said. "It was just suffocating in there. You couldn't catch your breath ... We're talking tonnes of manure here.''
He said he asked Murray to move the pile, but he refused.
It sat there for the next 11 months.
"The manure was fresh, unseasoned, wet, raw manure,'' Gallant said in an affidavit. "The smell was disgusting.''
"It was year-old manure. It wasn't manure that had just come out of the cows.'' — Lee Murray
Murray said he had no choice but to put the pile near the garage because to do otherwise would have been unsafe. He said it was late in the fall, the ground was wet and slippery from recent rains, and it would have been dangerous to move the manure down an adjacent hill.
"That manure pile wasn't moved over there to harass the Gallants,'' he said. "I went over and talked to (Dave Gallant) about it, and told him he wouldn't smell it. It was year-old manure. It wasn't manure that had just come out of the cows.''
The frustrated farmer insisted the mound — Gallant called it a "manure mountain'' — soon froze solid and did not stink at all.
"We couldn't spread it or nothing because it got too late in the year,'' Murray said. "My lawyer didn't explain to the judge that seasoned manure and frozen manure doesn't smell.''
Lee Murray said the manure was a year old and froze solid soon after he moved it next to his neighbours' property. (Photo: Getty)
Photos taken at the time show a large, dark mass near the garage, some of it seeping under a wire fence and onto the Gallants' property.
Justice George Rideout of the Court of Queen's Bench concluded that Murray dumped the dung to antagonize the Gallants, saying his actions were "wilful and reprehensible.''
The onetime location of a manure pile on Lee and Shirley Murray's property. (Photo: Google Earth)
"In my opinion ... the manure was placed where it was for only one purpose: to make Mr. and Mrs. Gallant's lives miserable,'' the judge wrote.
"The manure was piled high and a photo taken by Google from a satellite shows it. There were other places where the manure could have been placed which would not have caused the odour problem.''
The judge imposed an injunction on the Murray family, saying they can't pile or spread manure within 300 metres of the Gallant home, or within 60 metres of any part of their property.
The judge also said the Murrays can't communicate with the Gallants except in writing.