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Stench and sensibility - Brooklyn Paper

Stench and sensibility

The Owls Head sewage plant isn't stinking as much. Now it's the noise that is bothering neighbors.

Neighbors of the stinky Owls Head Wastewater Treatment Plant aren’t plugging their noses as much as they used to, but now they’re holding their ears, thanks to the septic center’s new loudspeaker system.

Even with the intercom on its lowest setting, residents of Bay Ridge’s northwest corner can hear plant announcements clearly.

“It’s become a real problem for people around here,” one Shore Road resident told The Brooklyn Paper. “It’s like living next to Yankee Stadium.”

The Department of Environmental Protection installed the intercom to comply with federal regulations, but “unfortunately, it was put in a bit too loud,” the agency’s Assistant Commissioner Vincent Sapienza admitted at a Community Board 10 meeting on Sept. 16.

The loudspeaker is now set on the minimum volume according to Sapienza, but that hasn’t stopped the complaints.

“It’s quite annoying,” said Shore Road resident Joyce Allison. “I can’t tell you exactly what it says, but it’s noisy and it’s distracting.”

The public address system is supposed to only be in use from 7 am until 7 pm, but some residents say that workers use the loudspeaker much later.

Plant employees have also been “advised not to use the system as an intercom, but only for critical notifications to plant management or in an emergency,” a DEP handout distributed at the board meeting said.

But most of the time, the public address system blares mundane workplace chatter, according to residents of the nearby blocks.

“They call out peoples’ names,” said a neighbor who has been awoken by the messages. “It’s more like: ‘Charlie, I have to see you, come to the office’ — than it’s like: ‘Red alert!’”

Problems with the overly loud loudspeaker came after the DEP promised in June that repair work at Owls Head would make this summer the “least smelly of all time” — a guarantee that many neighbors say the agency has kept.

There were just 36 complaints to the city’s 311 line about foul odors wafting from the plant this year between May 1 and Sept. 12, compared with 114 over the same period last year.

But until the smell — and the sounds — are gone for good, neighbors aren’t going to be happy.

“The smell has always been a problem, now the noise is a problem,” Allison said. “It never seems like things get resolved down there.”

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