NYOFCo will be coming back to Hunts Point over the Bronx Borough President’s dead body.
Borough President Ruben Diaz declared last month that he would oppose efforts by the fertilizer plant’s parent company Synagro to snare a new contract with the city to process sewage sludge at the plant on Oak Point Avenue.
For 16 years the plant emitted sickening odors that could be smelled to the Bruckner Expressway and beyond, sparking neighborhood protest.
Diaz left the door open just a crack when asked at a press conference with the staff of The Hunts Point Express under what circumstances he would agree to a return of the waste-to-fertilizer operation.
“If—if–there is any chance that as borough president I would support NYOFCo, it would only be if the community from Hunts Point, from Community Board 2 and those entities, those organizations, those environmental organizations” agreed that new technology would make the plant acceptable, he said. “Then as the borough president, as their representative, then maybe I would be willing to support it.”
In recent months, representatives from the Natural Resources Defense Council traveled to a Synagro facility in Pinellas County, Florida to observe updated sludge treatment technology at work.
Experts from the national environmental organization, which sued Synagro and the city on behalf of Hunts Point residents, said it is too early to judge whether the new method would work in the Bronx.
“It’s comparing apples and oranges,” said Albert Huang, a lawyer for the environmental organization.
“Does it eliminate odors? No. Does it significantly reduce them? Yes,” Huang said. But he added that the industrial sludge treated at the Florida plant is inherently less smelly than the human waste that was trucked from the city’s 14 sewer plants to Hunts Point.
“The technology is state-of-the-art, but it’s not interchangeable,” said Huang.
The city’s Department of Environmental Protection is studying proposals from applicants looking to occupy the riverside plant NYOFCo operated between 1994 and last summer, and has said it will select a winning applicant some time early in the new year.
As an assemblyman, the borough president said, he “had been out there fighting NYOFCo for many years.”
He said he cheered what he thought was a great victory when of state regulators who tightened the plant’s permits and when Attorney General Andrew Cuomo sued the company.
“If the community does not want NYOFCo, as the borough president I would side with the community,” Diaz said.
A version of this story appeared in the January 2011 issue of The Hunts Point Express.