‘Dirty Diaper’ Smell From Wastewater Treatment Plant Has Become Intolerable, Neighbors Say

‘Dirty Diaper’ Smell From Wastewater Treatment Plant Has Become Intolerable, Neighbors Say
The Coney Island Wastewater Treatment Plant. (Source: DEP)
The Coney Island Wastewater Treatment Plant. (Source: DEP)

The rancid smell from the wastewater treatment plant over on Knapp Street has long been a nuisance for residents in the area. However, following last month’s record-breaking blizzard, neighbors say the stink has become intolerable and are calling on the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to look into problems at the plant that may have been exacerbated by the storm.

“It smells like dirty diapers,” said Doreen Garson, chief of the Gerritsen Beach volunteer fire department, who has been fielding complaints from her neighbors. “It’s always been a problem but it’s never been this bad. Now it’s in people’s homes and they can’t get rid of the smell.”

State Senator Marty Golden said his office has received an “abundance of complaints” about the overpowering odor, prompting him to send a letter on Monday to DEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd and Health Commissioner Mary Bassett asking them to investigate a possible malfunction at the plant.

The source of the stink may be related to an even larger problem. Golden’s letter explains that several businesses on Gerritsen Avenue, who complained of a sewage smell in their stores, were advised by the DEP their sewers were backed up and the pipes needed to be flushed so they could drain.

DEP addressed the issue on Gerritsen Avenue, but many homeowners in the area are having similar problems, according to Golden’s letter.

The senator also expressed concern that the smell could be a health hazard and reported that some residents are complaining of headaches that could be caused by the stink.

The environmental agency has not responded to multiple emails and phone calls requesting information. The Health Department referred all inquiries to the DEP.

Considering this issue is of great concern to neighbors and may endanger people’s health, the fact that two city agencies appear reluctant to provide answers to the community is almost as nauseating as the stink coming from the Knapp Street plant. Last we checked, this isn’t Flint, Michigan.

Tom Paolillo, a member of the Sheepshead Bay-Plumb Beach Civic Association, is also worried about potential health hazards caused by the smell.

“It’s gotta be something in our air that can’t be healthy,” he said. “I was over at a gas station on Knapp Street, I was gagging. I couldn’t believe how strong it was.”

Paolillo said the odor “smells like a toilet bowl that hasn’t been flushed in 10 days.”

The wastewater treatment facility, located along Shell Bank Creek, is supposed to be equipped with an “extensive odor control system,” according to the DEP’s website. The city completed a $48 million upgrade at the 30-acre plant in 2011. The state also received a $283 million Superstorm Sandy relief package from the federal government for resiliency projects to prevent sewage treatment plants from overflowing during heavy rainfalls.

Garson worries that last month’s blizzard, which blanketed the area with almost 27 inches of snow, may have overburdened the neighborhood’s aging sewage infrastructure. She is hoping the DEP can come up with answers.

“There’s definitely a big problem at the plant. But right now, no one knows what’s going on,” she said.

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