North River Sewage Treatment Plant

WE ACT, Inc. 271 West 125th Street, Suite 308, New York, New York 10027-4424 Contact Us

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The substandard operation of the North River Sewage Treatment Plant proved to be a rallying point for residents who complained about the foul odors emanating from it and of suffering from respiratory problems since it began operation in April 1986. Community leaders took to the streets to demand that those responsible for operating the plant be held accountable for the impact its operation was having on the surrounding community. In March 1988, WE ACT was founded, transforming an ad hoc group of environmental advocates into a strong voice opposing the faulty operation of the sewage treatment plant. WE ACT was instrumental in getting the Manhattan Borough President's Office to commission an expert study which eventually concluded that air emissions from the plant far exceeded allowable levels for pollutants.

In January 1994, WE ACT reached an unprecedented $1.1 million settlement agreement as a result of a lawsuit brought against the City of New York that provided significant injunctive relief against the adverse impacts created by the poor operation of the treatment plant. This settlement was seen not only as a significant victory for the thousands of residents directly affected by the operation of the plant, but it was also representative of a national effort by communities of color across the nation to fight the disproportionate impact of pollution borne by these communities.

Furthermore, WE ACT's victory legitimized the efforts of small community-based organizations to fight for the future of their communities by challenging the dangerous practice of dumping unwanted and environmentally harmful facilities in their neighborhoods.

WE ACT has been a vigilant monitor of the North River Water Pollution Control Plant that treats raw sewage from the Westside of Manhattan. WE ACT retained a consultant to inspect the operations of the North River Sewage Treatment Plant to ensure compliance with the five-year plan that was established as a result of the court mandated settlement agreement between WE ACT, the Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC) and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYC DEP). Additional city funds have been spent to retrain North River's operating staff on equipment operation and maintenance, on better housekeeping to prevent stale, malodorous problems from occurring, and on testing the air for odors.

1996 marked ten years since the North River Sewage Treatment Plant first began operating in West Harlem. DEP declared that all the settlement agreement changes had been completed. Then, in 1997, DEP insisted on hiring the same engineering firm that designed North River's control changes to be the "independent" consultants that would evaluate whether the changes were working. WE ACT and the NRDC refused, pointing out that the "designer" cannot be independent when evaluating its own design! After months of negotiations, DEP agreed to have a second, independent engineering firm. chosen by WE ACT, evaluate the plant's odor control with DEP's design firm. But then negotiations stalled when DEP wanted to limit what the independent engineers could review. DEP wanted to allow the consultants to test the air in and around North River for odors, but did not want to allow the consultants to look at the plant control systems that had been installed. After more months of frustrating negotiations, DEP finally agreed to allow the independent engineers to study the whole plant. The final report may be a joint report or separate reports if the two engineering companies, DEP's engineers and the independent consultants, do not agree on conclusions. Meanwhile, in November 1997, significant odors were found in the plant and the park. They have found that Malcolm Pirnie has disregarded its own protocols regarding odor control.

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This Site Affiliated With The:
Community/University Consortium
for Regional Environmental Justice (CUCREJ)

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West Harlem Environmental Action, Inc.
Copyright © 1998-2007. All Rights Reserved.
Web Manager: Carlos M. Jusino
Content Manager: Carlos M. Jusino

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