Attorney General Cuomo Sues South Bronx Fertilizer Company To End Noxious Odors That Threaten Health And Well-being Of Hunts Point Residents

NEW YORK, NY (February 5, 2009) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced he is suing the New York Organic Fertilizer Company (NYOFCo) and its parent company, Synagro Technologies, Inc. (Synagro), to force their South Bronx facility to end persistent noxious odors that have plagued the surrounding Hunts Point community for years.  The lawsuit charges that odors emanating from the facility have created a public nuisance under New York State law. 

Persistent foul, acrid odors produced by the NYOFCo facility - which have been variously described as smelling like raw sewage, feces, manure, and burning bodies - disrupt routine activities in residential areas of Hunts Point, as well as at local schools, libraries and Barretto Point Park, a $7.2 million New York City park opened in 2006.  These odors also cause those living and working nearby to suffer serious health effects, including severe headaches, nausea, vomiting, difficulty in breathing, and asthma attacks. 

“The NYOFCo facility has been a foul and persistent threat to Hunts Point for years,” said Cuomo. “The stench has plagued the community, making simple activities like opening windows, walking to school or enjoying a local park not only unpleasant, but an actual health risk.  Through this lawsuit my office is joining with the residents of the South Bronx to protect their right to clean and healthy air.”

The lawsuit announced by Cuomo today charges that the NYOFCo facility, located in the Hunts Point neighborhood of South Bronx, has created a public nuisance under New York State law by producing odors that “unreasonably interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property.”  Further, the lawsuit charges that NYOFCo and Synagro have failed to control odors “so they do not constitute nuisances or threats to public health, safety or property.” 

NYOFCo accepts sewage sludge from New York City’s sewage treatment plants and processes it into fertilizer pellets for sale to out-of-state agricultural operations.  Since the facility began operations in 1991, residents, students and workers in the community have continually complained about foul, acrid odors emanating from it.  The facility has repeatedly allowed noxious odors to escape from the facility, and has been cited for numerous violations by the City and State.

"Our community has been plagued by the stench of the NYOFCo facility for far too long," said Congressman Jose E. Serrano. "It fouls our air and public spaces, and worse, jeopardizes the health of families and children in our neighborhoods. When I reached out to Attorney General Cuomo several months ago, I felt he would make a great partner on this issue. Therefore I am very pleased he has joined our efforts to address this longstanding environmental and public health hazard. I look forward to working closely with the Attorney General to bring cleaner air and long-awaited relief to the people of Hunts Point and Longwood."

The Attorney General’s lawsuit aims to address the odor problems associated with the operation of the facility by requiring NYOFCo and Synagro to comprehensively investigate solutions to ending offensive and noxious odors in the community, and then to implement those that will be most effective. 

Cuomo’s suit was filed in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, Bronx County.  On July 9, 2008, a similar nuisance lawsuit filed was filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council on behalf Mothers on the Move, a community-based environmental justice organization, and ten South Bronx residents.

“Despite repeated complaints from Hunts Point residents, as well as being repeatedly cited for numerous odor violations by the City and State, NYOFCo’s owners have blithely allowed the facility to continue to spew noxious odors into the community,” added Cuomo. “My Office will not allow NYOFCo’s owners to continue to shirk their legal responsibility to Hunts Point residents.” 

Miquela Craytor, Executive Director of Sustainable South Bronx, said: "For too many years, NYOFCo has turned its back on the Hunts Point community.  For too many years they have not listened to our demands that the facility stop filling our air with foul, unhealthy odors and chemicals. Due to New York City's failing sewer system, NYOFCo ends up burning both sludge and toxic run-off from streets. We are very pleased to have Attorney General Cuomo put the power of his office behind the efforts of our community to force NYOFCo to eliminate its terrible stench and the harmful impact that this facility has on our health."

Cerita Parker, Hunts Point resident and a member of Mothers on the Move, said: "By treating South Bronx as its own private dumping ground, NYOFCo has denied our community the basic satisfaction of enjoying a walk in a park, a Sunday backyard barbeque, or even a summer's breeze from an open window. By putting the weight of his office behind our cause, Attorney General Cuomo brings us support and the hope that we can finally put an end to this odor problem and restore our quality of life."

Al Huang, Environmental Justice Attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said: "The intrusive odors emanating from NYOFCo have plagued the daily lives of Hunts Point residents for years.Thanks to Attorney General Cuomo, today the Hunts Point community has gained a formidable ally to fight by their side in this emblematic environmental justice struggle."

Kellie Terry-Sepulveda, Executive Managing Director of The Point CDC, said: “Hunts Point has been fighting for environmental justice on a number of fronts for many many years.  NYOFCo’s foul odor represents one of the most detrimental hazards to our public health and quality of life. Progress in this struggle has been achieved as a result of collective action amongst community groups, the State of New York, and local elected officials.  We applaud Attorney General Cuomo for joining our efforts to eliminate NYOFCo’s stench and to reclaim our community’s quality of life."

The case is being handled by Assistant Attorneys Lisa Feiner and Andrew Gershon of the Environmental Protection Bureau, under the supervision of Special Deputy Attorney General Katherine Kennedy.

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