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State acts to remedy HP odors

After Hunts Point environmental justice group Mothers on the Move, this month, announced they were filing a lawsuit against a fertilizer plant they say is making the community sick, it seems the State DEC has finally begun to take action to remedy an odor problem plaguing the community for years.

While some were unconvinced at a July 24 meeting about the Department of Environmental Conservation’s ability to fix the conditions which have not only spread odor, but they believe sickness, through the Hunts Point community, DEC is looking into amending a solid waste permit to force more stringent operating conditions on the New York Organic Fertilizer Company’s organic fertilizer plant at 1108 Oak Point Avenue.

The permit, which the plant has not renewed and is currently operating without, covers the transfer of sludge and solid waste from when it is brought into the plant by truck to when the fertilizer pellets the plant produces leaves the facility on trains.

“I sincerely appreciate the work that so many community groups and leaders have done over the years to get us to this point; it is a sign of rebirth in our community,” said Congressman Jose Serrano, who helped organize the forum. “I must also thank DEC for their responsiveness and diligence with regard to their regulatory role.”

The state DEC is seeking public input on the NYOFCo public waste management permit renewal that will include a 30-day public comment period running from Thursday, July 24 to Monday, August 25.

During September 2008, after considering the public’s comments, DEC will issue a revised Part 360 Solid Waste permit for the facility.

NYOFCo has agreed to implement measures to stop the proliferation of odors coming from the site. These include keeping doors to the plant closed at all times, storing critical spare parts for odor control devices on site, having an alternative power source to provide specific energy for odor control devices, installing an additional, spare odor treatment unit, and installing a new silo ventilation unit.

In addition, NYOFCo has agreed to maintain a sludge pellet management log that documents the quantity and time of all sludge deliveries, and agreed to notify DEC by e-mail, in no later than three hours, after the onset of an emergency or upset condition.   

There will be further hearings next year as the federal EPA air emissions permit at the plant comes due, and the community also hopes that changes will be made in that permit to improve air quality further. 

“What we saw happen with DEC at the meeting was the result of working with the agency to unravel the technical details of the permit,” said Kellie Terry-Sepulveda of The Point Development Corp., a non-profit that called on DEC to shut down the NYOFCo plant in August 2006 for failing to renew permit Part 360. “This as really refreshing – having a government agency being held to a high standard. DEC wants to have a dialogue with the community.”

In order to have your voice heard during the public hearing period on renewal of the draft Part 360 solid waste management permit for NYOFCo’s Hunts Point plant, comments can be faxed to (718) 482-4975 or e-mailed to r2dep@gw.dec.state.ny.us

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