Day 382

Spring Creek composting center

January 15th, 2013



The city started building this 20-acre facility back in 2001 to serve as the main composting site for Brooklyn and Queens (it sits just on the Brooklyn side of the border between the two boroughs). However, it has only been able to process a limited amount of compost since then (you can see the small number of compost windrows at the site, most of them quite overgrown, here) because its application for an operating permit, which is needed for large-scale composting, has been held up by residents of nearby neighborhoods, who claim that the facility already produces significant levels of odor and dust, and that these conditions will only worsen if operations at the site are increased.

Just this past summer, after years of departmental hearings and procedural wranglings, the commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation finally granted a permit to the facility, rejecting the largely unfounded claims of the locals:

Given the other sources of odors in the vicinity of the facility, including the scavenger waste pit used by septic haulers to discharge raw sewage, the City's combined sewer overflow tanks, and the nearby creek and marshes, it is more likely than not that many of the odors identified by the opponents' lay witnesses were from sources other than the composting facility. In fact, Department inspectors detected odors from those other sources during an inspection conducted in 2007. . . .

As with odor, dust conditions were more likely than not the result of other activities in the area, including construction activities, and bus and truck traffic, and not composting activities. With respect to the "black dust" identified by lay witnesses for the intervenors, black dust was more likely the result of soot from idling diesel engines at the neighboring bus depot than the composting of yard waste at the facility.
As one Department of Sanitation official says about this classic NIMBY problem: "Everybody supports composting, but no one wants anything near them."

One Comment

  1. Ronald J. Dillon says:

    The allegedly “largely unfounded claims” were substantiated by the trier of fact in the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation permit hearing process who found the testimony of the witnesses to the facility operation credible. The Commissioner overruled the findings of his agency’s Administrative Law Judge speculating that the dust, odors, and other nuisance conditions were from other sources. Yet, the State agency and the NYC Department of Sanitation attempted in the proceedings to lay the blame for nuisance conditions on other potential sources. The witnesses categorically denied that these other straw nuisance sites were the cause the problems they personally experienced. The Old Mill Creek Park facility came into existence because the nuisance conditions cause the facility to be relocated from nearby Seaview Park by the Canarsie residents who complained about the nuisance conditions created by the facility’s operation.

    This posting makes not mention that the facility at the Old Mill Creek Park illegally was built and began operating without the benefit of the requisite permits. The facility is on parkland, and the use to which the NYC Department of Sanitation put the parkland constitutes an alienating use.

    Although the NYS DEC Commissioner overruled his Administrative Law Judge who recommended denial of the permits and directed that the permits be issued, the matter is now in the courts. The community expects to prevail on the merits of the alienation of parkland principle.

    This posting also failed to mention the five other illegal solid waste processing facilities that the New Lots Old Mill Community has been forced to endure.

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