NEW YORK (July 9, 2008) – Foul smells from the Hunts Point sewage plant and a nearby human waste and biosolids fertilizer facility are the target of a nuisance lawsuit filed today by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) on behalf Mothers on the Move (MOM), a community-based environmental justice organization, and ten South Bronx residents. The Hunts Point area is one of the poorest Congressional districts in the nation.
The stench emanating from the two facilities could be controlled with operating and/or capital improvements, according to the lawsuit, which names the New York Organic Fertilizer Company (NYOFCo), the two companies that own it (Synagro Technologies Inc. and The Carlyle Group), the City of New York and its Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
“This neighborhood has been treated like a dumping ground for too long,” said Albert Huang, NRDC attorney. “The court papers allege that the defendants are not taking reasonable steps available today that would prevent this overwhelming stench from degrading residents’ quality of life and health.”
Hunt’s Point is home to two large sewage-related industrial facilities – the NYOFCo sludge facility and the Hunts Point sewage plant – located on either side of the community’s only greenspace, Barretto Point Park. The severe odors emanating from the facilities force many residents to keep their windows closed even in the summer heat, avoid going outside to enjoy the park and other public places, and prevents them from enjoying their own properties. Similar plants in New York City have upgraded technologies which reduce the strength of the stench.
“We’re experiencing another July in which the simple pleasures of summertime in our community – a fresh breeze blowing in the bedroom, an evening conversation on the front stoop, a family cook-out in the backyard, a stroll down the street, an afternoon ballgame at the local park – are being denied to us by the stench coming from these sewage plants,” said Tanya Fields, Hunts Point resident and MOM member.
The groups filed suit in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of Bronx, on the grounds that offensive and noxious odors from the facilities unreasonably create a private and public nuisance. U.S. Congressman Jose Serrano, who represents the Hunts Point area and supports the lawsuit, has repeatedly expressed concerns about this sewage related odors on behalf of his constituents.
“This lawsuit is not trying to shut down these facilities, which play important roles in disposing of sewage and sludge from all five boroughs of New York City,” said Huang. “Instead, it simply seeks to make sure the facilities use available technology and practices to cut back on the stench, so that residents can enjoy the same freedoms as all other city residents in their homes, in the park, and throughout the community, without the nauseating odors that are a regular, imposing presence on their lives.”
In Hunts Point, childhood asthma rates are among the highest in the nation, and noxious odors are known to aggravate asthma. Nearly all of the neighborhood’s residents are Latino or African-American, and almost half live below the federal poverty level, which is double the poverty rate for New York City, according to the DEP. It is home to commercial and industrial industries that bring thousands of diesel trucks and trash through the neighborhood daily, and has one of the lowest greenspace-to-person ratios in the city.
MOM has more than 125 members, primarily low-income Black and Latina women, committed to a greener, safer South Bronx for their children. Barretto Point Park is a five-acre waterfront park with an open lawn, a beach, planting areas, volleyball and basketball, a promenade and an amphitheater.
The Hunts Point sewage plant treats sewage from more than a half million people in New York City. The NYOFCo sludge facility has an exclusive contract with the city to process up to 825 wet tons of sludge per day, which it processes into pelletized fertilizer for out-of-state export.