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MOM files lawsuit against HP businesses

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Foul smells from a Hunts Point sewage plant and nearby human waste and biosolids fertilizer factory are the target of a nuisance lawsuit by the Natural Resources Defense Council on behalf of Mother’s on the Move, a locally based environmental justice organization, and 10 south Bronx residents.

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, the two companies that own it, Synagro Technologies Inc. and The Carlyle Group, and the Department of Environmental Protection in their claim.

The plaintiffs said at a press conference held on Wednesday, July 9 at Baretto Park announcing the suit, that other plants similar to NYOFCo’s Hunts Point palletizing plant have pollution controls that prevent the kind of contamination of the air that can be smelled blocks away, beyond the peninsula.

“We are talking about fundamental rights,” said lawyer Al Huang, of the NRDC, “like the ability to sit on your stoop and talk with neighbors without smelling foul-orders.”

Lucretia Jones, one of the plaintiffs and a founding board member of MOM, said the severe odors force many residents to keep their windows closed, even in summer heat, and avoid going outside to enjoy the park or their own backyards.

Jones lives in a multi-generational three-family home her parents purchased in 1944, more than 10 blocks from NYOFCo’s plant. Jones would love to have cook-outs in her backyard, but says she can’t because of the smells wafting over her home. 

“We have to try to get NYOFCo and the Hunts Point sewage plant to abate the smells,” Jones noted. “We would like to have them eliminate the smells.” 

Tanya Fields, another plaintiff, said she often would take her children to Manhattan to avoid the smells, but traveling on the subway with baby strollers became too burdensome.

“Why does a mother have to lug a stroller up and down flights of stairs to go to a greenspace in Manhattan, when we have a perfectly good park right here, coincidentally next to the plant,” Fields said.

The DEP said they will do all they can to check the odor problem, and is still in the process of reviewing the complaint. 

“DEP has been actively working with the Hunts Point community to address complaints about odors over the past several years; has worked with Community Board 2 to conduct odor surveys in the area and coordinated with 311 to improve our response to odor complaints,” said DEP spokeswoman Mercedes Padilla. “DEP is also part of an ongoing multi-agency Odor Management Plan the City has initiated to investigate the full range of odor sources in the Hunts Point area.”

Congressman Jose Serrano, called for the closure of the NYAFCo plant in November 2006, since at the time, it was operating without a license. 

“Mothers on the Move’s imaginative and moving approach to raising awareness of this injustice highlighted the unreasonable burden that the NYAFCo facility places on the residents in the surrounding neighborho­ods,” Serrano said. “For too many years, the south Bronx has been the repository for the industries and activities that other parts of the City don’t want in their backyards.”

Calls placed to Synagro and The Carlyle Group yielded no comment as of press time.

Updated 5:30 pm, October 21, 2011
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