NOSE-TORIOUS: Foul smell rising from Owls Head plant again

Pepe le Pew has nothing on the Owls Head water treatment plant.

The notorious facility — accused for years of fouling the air in Bay Ridge with an unbearable stench — has Ridgites holding their snouts again, as odors from the waterfront plant waft as far as Narrows and Bay Ridge avenues.

“A foul stench … arises which makes it unbearable to spend time outdoors or to leave windows open,” wrote one angry resident in an e-mail to Community Board 10, which has fielded a flurry of complaints, even as the city works to fix the problems that have plagued Owls Head and nearby residents for years.

That resident hasn’t experienced the benefit of a new filtering system unveiled with great fanfare by the Department of Environmental Protection this spring.

The city promised at the time that the plant’s smelliest days were behind it, but the reality hasn’t lived up to the hype, as the agency — which has replaced temporary plywood tank covers with permanent metal ones to contain the smell — scurries to complete a new $40-million building that will enclose the stinkiest tanks.

In the meantime, residents are forced to suck it up — literally.

“For a while, we had no odor, but after that, for days on end, there was an odor all day and all night,” said Eleanor Petty, who lives within sniffing distance.

What’s particularly frustrating, she added, is the fact that several years ago, Mayor Bloomberg personally promised her that the problem would be corrected during his term in office.

But, still, it seems beyond the city’s ability to fix it.

“There are no answers,” Petty, who said she’s called 311 about the stench several times, fumed. “Our use of our public spaces [near the plant] is limited by the odor.”

And some say plant workers’ open-door policy adds to the trials and tribulations of local noses.

“Whenever it gets hot, they open up the doors and windows and let the smells out,” said Allen Bortnick, who lives nearby. “They won’t provide their people with breathing apparatus, so we have to suffer beyond belief.”

The problem is compounded by a stinky sewer at Shore Road and 71st Street, he added.

“The entire block smells like an outhouse,” said Bortnick. “It’s absolutely putrid air. They dug up the sewer but they didn’t clear up the smell. It’s terrible.”

However, the city says the plant isn’t creating a stink.

“It does not appear that there are currently any odors coming from the plant,” said Mercedes Padilla, an Environmental Protection spokeswoman. “Odor conditions … have dramatically improved due to the investments we’ve made since 2006.”

In fact, the city has been trying for years to contain the stench.

In 2007, the city created elaborate steel-and-wood covers on some — though not all! — of the tanks, an improvement that was followed in 2008 with the installation of a new flare to burn off excess gas. The agency also sealed some windows to help contain the stink, and completed renovations of an odor control system in its screenings rooms.


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