Neighbors: Owls Head plant still stinks!

The stink is back.

Residents living near the Owls Head sewage treatment plant are holding their noses again and wondering when the stench which has pervaded their homes for years will finally go away.

“Every time [workers at the plant] screw up and open a door they’re not supposed to, there’s a tremendous stench that comes out,” complained Allen Bortnick, a member of Community Board 10 who lives near the wastewater facility at Bay Ridge Avenue and Shore Road. “People are suffering.”

Another neighbor, Eleanor Petty, said she was frustrated that the city celebrated the activation of new filtration equipment in May, even though the full $40-million stench-reduction project was far from done.

“If the project isn’t complete, why do a ribbon-cutting?” she demanded.

Officials had a logical explanation for the continuing stench: sometimes, the complicated system of managing millions of gallons of human feces simply fails.

The most recent olfactory outbreak was the result of “a system failure in one of the settling tanks,” said Josephine Beckmann, the district manager of Community Board 10. “To make the necessary repairs, they had to hose out the tank, and they told us it might get worse before it improved.”

The agency had not notified the board about the most-recent problem, she added.

An Environmental Protection spokesman said that the agency is committed to mitigating the unpleasant odors emanating from the plant, and “wants to be a good neighbor,” but the city’s failure to stanch the stench has a long and smelly past.

In 2007, last spring, the city created eleborate 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.

Most important, the agency stopped storing “grit,” a smelly byproduct of the treatment process, outdoors.

The final two tanks were covered earlier this summer, but there have still been periodic complaints.

The agency spokesman said that all of the problems should be solved by December — and Commissioner Cas Holloway said that his workers should be commended for their effort.

“We’re taking every reasonable measure to limit our impact on the community,” he said.

Petty, the neighbor of the plant, appreciated the effort, but said it was unsatisfactory.

“The odors are still there,” she said. “Is it horrendous every single day? No. But, when they have a problem, it comes right through the air conditioner.”

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