Surprise, surprise–North Brooklynites aren’t exactly thrilled about a potential parade of up to 30 tankers hauling organic waste through their neighborhood every day, even if the compost does eventually get converted into natural gas.
The plan started on a smaller scale. The city’s pilot program began in 2013 by collecting organic waste from Brooklyn schools and transporting it to the Newtown Creek Water Pollution Control Plant (home of everyone’s favorite “digester eggs”), where it’s mixed with waste water to create a slurry that produces biogas for National Grid.
But now the pilot is moving into its second phase, which means increasing the amount of organic waste from five tons to 10 tons per day with the potential to raise the capacity to 250 tons per day over the next three years, according to a 2013 press release issued by the NYC Department of Environmental Protection Public Affairs. “If the pilot proves successful,” the release states, “there is the potential to process up to 500 tons of organic food waste per day at the Newtown Creek Plant.”
Each truck can haul about one ton of waste at a time, according to Brooklyn Community Board 1’s District Manger Gerald Esposito. At a meeting of the full Community Board Tuesday, Esposito said spokespeople for the program told him the tankers will travel on “supposed truck routes” that include Morgan and Kingsland Avenues, which he characterized as heavily populated residential streets.
The issue is compounded by Brooklyn’s history of shouldering more than its fair share of the city’s waste. Nineteen of the city’s 58 waste transfer stations are located in Community Board 1, which encompasses most of Greenpoint and Williamsburg, and those facilities handle about 40 percent of New York City’s waste, according to the Greenpoint Waterfront Association for Parks and Planning.
The resolution presented at the recent meeting brought up concerns about ramifications to public health, stating that recent studies show a significant increase in pollutant matter floating in the air when transfer stations are open and operating, which the board found alarming considering the close proximity of the Newton Creek plant to residential areas and a business zone.
Even illnesses like asthma and bronchitis were taken into consideration, with the resolution mentioning studies that found residents of Williamsburg and Bushwick have a higher than average occurrence of asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Other factors of air pollution cited in the resolution: emissions from the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, Williamsburg Bridge traffic, Brooklyn’s largest bus terminal, waste transfer stations and toxic ecological footprints left over from the area’s industrial past.
Esposito argued the project, a joint effort of the City of New York, the Department of Sanitation and the Department of Environmental Protection, sounds good on paper but has adverse effects on North Brooklyn’s residents. The DEP did not return our requests for comment.
“They always come up with good stuff, but it’s always on the backs of the Greenpoint/Williamsburg community. Why does it always have to be on our backs?” he asked, pointing out that the city will be dumping tons of additional waste at the Newtown Creek plant, and most of it is shipped in from other parts of the city for free with no tipping fees to compensate the community. “What are we getting out of this?” he asked the board and public members. “The answer is zero.” The board voted to adopt the stance that it “vehemently opposes” the organics recycling program; the decision was unanimous except for one abstention.
If you want to find out more about the process of turning waste water and food waste into gas at the Newtown Creek facility, the DEP explains it in this video below: