The clock is ticking, the sewage is stinking, and local elected officials are getting anxious that the city won’t follow through on its promise to cover the smelliest nine cesspools at the Owls Head sewage treatment plant by March.
Rep. Vito Fossella (R–Bay Ridge) even sent a pointed letter to Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Emily Lloyd urging her to “expedite” action.
“The people of Bay Ridge have been forced to endure this foul stench for too long,” Fossella later added. “Residents should not be afraid to open their windows or walk outside for fear of breathing in a disgusting odor.”
At a mid-December town hall meeting, two DEP commissioners promised that the nine most odorous sewage tanks would be covered by March. At the time, two had already been covered with laminated plywood. But since that meeting, and with only a month-and-a-half left, no additional tanks have been capped.
Local representatives are saying the delay reveals more foot-dragging in a decades-long battle to get DEP to eliminate the plant’s fetid stench.
“I’m not impressed with them saying we’ll cover the launders by March,” said Councilman Vince Gentile (D–Bay Ridge), who has been leading the effort to staunch the stench.
Gentile is so distrustful of DEP that he wants to commission an independent odor survey to “confirm or deny” the agency’s claim that the gasses emitted by the plant aren’t harmful.
“Until our town hall last month, DEP wouldn’t even acknowledge that the odors were present, persistent or annoying to residents,” said Gentile. “Based on that record, you might say I have a lack of confidence in what they’re telling us now.”
They’re not telling us much.
Natalie Millner, a spokeswoman for DEP, did not refute Fossella’s assertion that no progress had been made. She would only say that DEP received Fossella’s letter and that the agency “[has been] meeting with the Bay Ridge community to resolve the issues.”
Meanwhile, area residents are giving DEP the benefit of the doubt — for another few weeks, at least.
“A lot of times these things get dragged out, then all of a sudden, within a week or two of the deadline, they throw a million hands in there and it gets done,” said Robert Sablic, a Shore Road resident.
Fortunately for Sablic and other neighbors of the plant, the winter has kept the smell largely at bay. But come summertime, said Sablic, “it’s unbearable.”