City’s sludge will fill mines in Pennsylvania
The sprawling complex with the red-and-white striped smokestack on the Hunts Point waterfront where the New York Organic Fertilizer Company converted sewage sludge into fertilizer will not reopen any time soon.
The city’s Department of Environmental Protection will announce tomorrow that officials have selected an upstate New York-based sludge recycling company called WeCare Organics to handle the waste from across the city.
Under the terms of the contract, for the next five years WeCare will truck 400 tons a day of sludge from the city’s wastewater treatment plants to its plant in rural Pennsylvania where it will be mixed with lime and processed for use as a soil amendment.
The DEP says WeCare will use the processed sludge for top dressing on reclaimed open mine pits and will also sell it as compost to garden centers, nurseries, and landscape supply companies.
Synagro, NYOFCo’s parent company, submitted two different proposals to continue recycling sludge in the Oak Point Avenue plant, according to the DEP. But the agency said disposing of the sludge under the new contract will cost the city $56 million, millions less than it would have spent if it had accepted Synagro’s bid. The new arrangement will not cause an increase in truck traffic locally, they added.
NYOFCo was widely criticized in Hunts Point for the sickening smells its plant emitted in the process of converting 70 percent of the city’s sewage into fertilizer pellets.
The city’s decision came as a relief to Hunts Point and Longwood activists who have long pressured the city to get rid of NYOFCo or force it to clean up its act.
“I’m happy they won’t be part of the Bronx anymore,” said Freddy Febre, of Mothers on the Move. The advocacy organization was a plaintiff in a lawsuit against NYOFCo that helped persuade the city to terminate its contract with the company in June, 2010.
“That’s all behind us now and it’s almost guaranteed it will never happen again,” Febre said.
Even so, Febre sounded a word of caution, saying “Hopefully we won’t have to go after anyone else,” but “from what I’ve seen, it looks pretty good.”
Since ending its contract with NYOFCo, the DEP has been trucking the sludge to out-of-state landfills while it evaluated new proposals to deal with the sewage. NYOFCo’s parent company Synagro proposed reopening the NYOFCo plant on Oak Point Avenue with new technology when the DEP sought a new contractor to handle sludge.
Maria Torres, president of The Point Community Development Corp., who also heads the local environmental watchdog group, the Hunts Point Monitoring Committee, was optimistic but guarded.
“We are pleased they held true to their commitment to stop landfilling,” she said, adding, “We’d like to find out more about this company, but we’re glad the former NYOFCo site can be used for something more beneficial to the community.”
NYOFCo continues to lease the waterfront building, which is owned by Castle Oil. But without a contract to receive sludge from the city, the building’s future use remains unclear.
The public will have 30 days to comment on the city’s proposed contract with WeCare Organics. A hearing will be held on Dec. 29, at DEP headquarters in Flushing, 59-17 Junction Boulevard, 17th Floor Conference Room, starting at 10 a.m.