Today’s news:

Many give a hoot about stinky Owls Head plant - Persistent odors cause slew of complaints

Residents are still making a stink about the odors emanating from the Owls Head water treatment plant.

At the September meeting of Community Board 10, which was held in the community room at Shore Hill, 9000 Shore Road, additional complaints about the problematic facility adjacent to the 69th Street Pier were aired.

“I had to phone in an odor complaint this morning,” board member Eleanor Petty, who lives close to the Owls Head, told Vincent Sapienza, an assistant commissioner with the city’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). “It stinks.”

It’s also anything but quiet, Petty said. The facility’s public address system, she noted, is “on from 7 a.m. to11 p.m. It sounds like Yankee Stadium and it’s not an emergency.”

A man sitting at the back of the room concurred. “The noise is atrocious,” he told Sapienza, who had addressed the group to update them on the situation at the plant.

Overall, Sapienza had said before Petty spoke, “There is an improvement, but no one is going to be happy till there are zero complaints, so we are going to keep moving forward.”

The plant “actually did better than in 2007,” he told the group. “In 2007, from May to September, there were 114 complaints. In 2008, there were 36.”

However, of the 36 complaints received this year, a full 15 complaints were received on September 1st and 2nd. There had been seven in all of August, eight in all of July, five in June and one in May.

The complaints received on August 19th occurred as a result of “exhausted carbon” in the filters used near some of the tanks inside the plant. “The carbon had been replaced during the week of June 9th,” and is “expected to last at least three months,” according to a fact sheet distributed by Sapienza.

Because it hadn’t lasted, he said , “We think we got a bad batch.” To take that into account, Sapienza went on, the filters will now be checked once the carbon is two months old.

The odors that emanated from the plant in early September, according to the fact sheet, resulted from maintenance on a tank, whose “collector system… had been clogged by heavy grit and grease during a two-inch rainstorm on August 30th.”

“It was very odorous,” Sapienza acknowledged. “That was the tank that was actually closest to the community.”

As for the noise that had been complained about, Sapienza said, “We put in a new public address system recently because there were safety complaints raised about in an emergency, plant staff wouldn’t be able to hear an evacuation notice.”

However, Sapienza noted, the system had been “a bit too loud. It’s down to its lowest setting now. We did put procedures in place that during evening hours, plant staff will only use Motorola radios to communicate. And, they’ve been strictly instructed not to use the PA for any kind of intercom, only if it’s really critical to get a hold of a plant manager or in an emergency.”

DEP has got only a little over a year to fix the odor problem at the plant, board member Allen Bortnick reminded Sapienza, citing a promise made by Mayor Michael Bloomberg during a town hall meeting in Dyker Heights in 2006 that the odor problem at the plant would be fixed by the time he left office.

“I’m going to regret this,” Bloomberg said at the time, “but I’m going to make a commitment to you. It will be fixed before I leave office.”

However, the 42-month-long, $39 million OH-33 contract to revamp the residuals building (that includes a permanent structure to contain tanks that were the cause of many of the plant odors) has been delayed, as Bortnick pointed out. “I’d like to know when the first shovel is going into the ground,” he told Sapienza.

“We actually let the contract a couple of years ago,” Sapienza said, but, he went on, had lost the contractor who had won the bid. “So, we had to re-bid the contract. That was done last year. The contractor is out there. He’s been there working now.”

That’s the good news. However, Sapienza added, as part of the work being done, the contractor has to “drive 165 piles, so there’s going to be some noise. We told him to drive the piles during daytime hours. To do that building expansion, so we can increase the odor control system, he has to put the piles in.”

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