The revolting stench that blanketed parts of Sheepshead Bay and Gerritsen Beach earlier this year was caused by a mechanical failure at the Coney Island Wastewater Treatment Plant on Knapp Street, officials said.
“Everything that could have gone wrong, went wrong,” said Community Board 15 Chairwoman Theresa Scavo, who met Thursday with officials from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), along with State Senator Marty Golden, Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein, and a representative for City Councilman Chaim Deutsch.
Journalists were not invited to the meeting, which took place at the facility. However, community representatives at the meeting said a build up of solids in the plant’s tanks caused a breakdown that was responsible for the intolerable odor.
The DEP provided no response to our daily emails and phone calls requesting information about the smell since we first reported it at the beginning of February. The city agency agreed to meet with community representatives after Golden sent a letter to the DEP Commissioner and the health department requesting a meeting at the plant.
“It is unacceptable that our community has been subjected to such odors, and be assured that in light of this meeting, my staff and I will be closely monitoring the maintenance and situation here,” Golden said in a statement sent after the meeting.
Golden said the tanks have been cleaned and his office will now receive daily reports from the DEP about issues at the facility. The DEP has also appointed a new manager at the plant, he said.
Scavo explained that the plant manager was not replaced. Instead, she said the facility has been without a supervisor since the previous manager retired at the end of November.
Although unpleasant odors coming from the plant have long been a problem, neighbors began reporting the smell became intolerable soon after the record-breaking snow storm at the end of January. We were told that the foul stench had penetrated people’s homes, caused them to gag on the stench, and some described headaches that could be caused by the odor.
The DEP said the number of complaints to 311 about the smell have fallen to one since the sewage backup was addressed, Scavo said. She also reported the DEP found no potential for the odors to be harmful to neighbors’ health.
Golden’s office said that a five-day test caused a delay in obtaining data about the problem. Construction modifications at the plant are also planned for the near future, according to the senator.
Both Scavo and Golden said the DEP promised to be more proactive in alerting community representatives about problems at the plant.
“The problem is that they should have reached out to the community immediately,” Scavo said.