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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - NYOFCo

announced March 23, 2010

For a Better Bronx • Mothers on the Move •
The Point CDC • Sustainable South Bronx

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
             
 
Bronx community groups and residents gather outside NYOFCo to issue a collective response to the DEP’s plans to cease the City contract with NYOFCo later this year
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March 22nd, 2010 (Bronx, NY)-
                                                                                                 
Members of local community-based organizations and residents gathered outside of the New York Organic Fertilizer Company (NYOFCo) today to read a statement containing the community’s response to NYC DEP Commissioner Holloway’s plans to terminate their contract.
 
Cerita Parker, a member of Mothers on the Move, stated, “The City has taken an important first step to ending the odors caused by NYOFCo in our community. Regardless of what happens, we intend to continue our litigation against NYOFCo to ensure that the community is freed of these long-standing odors.”
 
"We acknowledge the critical impact of this vital issue on the future of Hunts Point and view this a tipping point, not only for our community but for all Environmental Justice communities,” said Kellie Terry-Sepulveda, Executive Director of The POINT CDC.  “We are cautiously optimistic and look forward to continuing working to ensure the most environmentally just and sustainable resolution possible is reached.”
 
Jaime Stein, Environmental Policy Analyst of Sustainable South Bronx commented, “The recent events present an opportunity for a new relationship between the City and the Hunts Point community. One in which we can work openly and collaboratively toward finding the most environmentally and socially just treatment of New York City sludge.”
 
"For A Better Bronx celebrates the work of the Hunts Point Awareness Committee, the students, parents and teachers of PS 48 and St. Athenatius Schools, and the persistence of the people of the Hunts Point and Longwood communities that have led us to this moment of hope that our people may finally breath a deep sigh of relief" says Marian Feinberg. "We hope this marks a new day in which the DEP will listen to the wisdom of our experience and work with us to assure that the burden of NYC sewage waste will not harm any other community."
 
 
The following statement was read by those present at today’s gathering:
 
For years, the NYOFCo facility released noxious and offensive odors and other chemical releases leading to increased asthma and other respiratory distress, headaches, nausea, conjunctivitis (pinkeye) into the Hunts Point and surrounding communities of Longwood and Soundview with little regulation or oversight by the City and the State.  For many years DEC allowed this plan to operate without the stack tests required by the permit with no penalty. As absenteeism from asthma increased among our children and school staff (one school nurse at PS 48 had to leave her job due to asthma exacerbation), schools had to cancel recess as children became acutely ill on the playground, the community had petition drives (including the signatures of cloistered nuns), held speak outs, many protests and filed many complaints during that time hoping for an end to the odors. An odor scientist hired to assuage the community found that many odors were due to lax maintenance and engineering at the plant. Other odors were also traced to DEP plants nearby. There was community objection to the current contract, Title V and solid waste permits, and finally a filing of a federal Title 6 action. The community has always had to fight for its democratic right to have public meetings and hearings so its voice and experience could be heard.  
 
On July of 2008, the community’s frustration with the facility led to the filing of a nuisance lawsuit against NYOFCo to stop the odors.  The lawsuit also was against the City’s Department of Environmental Protection (“DEP”) to address the odors generated by the City’s own Hunts Point Sewage Plant.  Shortly thereafter, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (“DEC”) finally issued long-awaited new air and solid waste permits, as well as a community monitoring plan for the NYOFCo facility.
 
On March 8th, Commissioner Holloway announced DEP’s intention to deny NYOFCo an extension contract and to terminate NYOFCo’s current contract on June 30, 2010.  If this action leads to the permanent closure of NYOFCo, we believe this is a major step to resolving this long-standing environmental justice struggle in the community.  We understand that the DEP is expected to finalize its decision in the next several months.  We support DEP’s action as long as the following issues are resolved: 
 
1.               The termination of the contract actually occurs and leads to the permanent closure of the NYOFCo facility.
 
2.               DEP consult the Hunts Point Monitoring Committee (“HPMC”) for all future actions regarding issues that affect the Hunts Point area and that the DEP Commissioner meet directly with HPMC for a question/answer session on the NYOFCo contract open to the public.  Although we appreciate the attempt by DEP to save the City substantial amounts of money by cancelling the NYOFCo contract, we were disappointed that this decision was not made in a transparent manner with meaningful community input. Without community notification and input you continue the undemocratic practices that have been a core issue in environmental justice. 
 
3.               DEP provide the community with more information on what the potential impacts of landfilling the sludge may have on new host communities.  DEP announced that when the termination of the NYOFCo contract occurs, it will temporarily landfill the sludge while it investigates other alternatives to beneficially reuse the sludge.  We do not believe the environmental justice problems posed by the sludge in the Hunts Point community should be pushed off to another host community, and would welcome the opportunity to share with DEP environmental health information that we already have. 
 
4.               DEP restart the process of identifying vendors to handle the long-term beneficial reuse contract for the sludge or alternative methods that are safest and healthiest for all concerned with meaningful input from the community.  We understand that DEP issued a Request for Interest (“RFI”) to potential vendors to beneficially reuse sludge and DEP has identified two vendors which responded with sludge-to-energy processes, in or view, incineration.  We are disappointed that DEP issued those RFIs without community input and would like to receive as many details as possible on the potential vendors prior to the City bidding out the contract.  We would like to be meaningfully involved in shaping the bidding process to ensure it does not result in new environmental justice problems in Hunts Point or elsewhere.
 
5.               The City pursues a long-term solution to the sludge issue that is ecologically sustainable and respects principles of environmental justice.
 
6.               DEC reconvene the stakeholder groups immediately to discuss the impacts of these recent developments as it pertains to their role as the permitting agency.