Less stink at Owls Head

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Bay Ridge residents might be able to breathe a little easier this summer.

The Department of Environmental Protection says that this year, the agency will be able to contain more of the putrid stenches that emanate from the Owls Head Wastewater Treatment Plant at the northwest corner of the neighborhood.

“It’s going to be the least smelly summer of all time,” DEP Assistant Commissioner Vincent Sapienza told Community Board 10 last month.

The announcement of a less stinky future was met with cheers, jeers and laughter, but according to Sapienza, eliminating the foul odors has been no joking matter.

To attack the smell, the DEP hired a consulting firm to sniff out the plant’s stinkiest parts. The private noses pinpointed the primary tank effluent launders — which contain a cascading waterfall of barely treated sewage deemed responsible for more than 90 percent of the Owls Head’s famous foulness.

“Because it’s like a waterfall effect, there is a lot of turbulence and a lot of odors get released,” Sapienza said. “And it doesn’t help that that part of the plant happens to be the closest to the community.”

Last spring, the DEP assembled steel and wood covers for the sewage-stuffed launders, which have been relatively effective in containing the odor, Sapienza said.

This year, the DEP installed a new digester flare to burn off excess gas, sealed the windows at its thickener complex to help contain the stink, and completed renovations of an odor control system in its screenings rooms.

Also new for this year is the steel-framed “barn,” which houses containers stuffed with grit — a smelly byproduct of the treatment process — before they are removed from the plant.

“We used to store the grit outside, and under the hot sun, that stuff bakes,” Sapienza said.

Even with the repairs, Bay Ridge residents are starting to hold their noses in anticipation of the summer’s hottest days — when Owls Head is at its smelliest, according to CB10 District Manager Josephine Beckmann.

“Complaints tend to increase in the summer, so I guess the jury is still out,” said Beckmann, whose office has received complaints this year, though not as many it has in past years.

“It’s too early to say whether it’s any better,” Beckmann said. “The real gauge is going to be July and August.”

For now, Bay Ridge is holding its breath.

Updated 5:07 pm, July 9, 2018
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