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Penfield stench complaints

by Sean Carroll

Penfield, N.Y. --- Folks in one Penfield neighborhood say the stench is growing stronger and appearing more frequently. They also believe their complaints are being ignored so they plan to present a petition to the Penfield Town Board later this month demanding action.

The odor has been present, on and off, for the better part of a century. The source is a rendering plant just off of Old Browncroft Boulevard, north of Ellison Park. The plant takes in dead animals, animal waste, and even restaurant waste so it can be processed in an environmentally safe way and in some cases converted into usable products and bio-fuels.

While the plant, now owned by Baker Commodities Inc., has always been present neighbors say the odor has never been worse.

"It makes you physically move back when you smell it, said Mike Kemp-Schneider who lives on Parkview Drive behind the plant. "If it had a color, I mean it's that thick, when you see a science fiction movie and you see mist coming in that's how strong it feels that's how strong it smells and it smells nauseating.

"It's a tough one because it's like nothing I've ever smelled before, if you can imagine rotting meat being cooked, that's a possibility, said Bob Reid when asked to describe the odor. Some people use the term diabolical Bar-B-Q, we get the word stench frequently used, miasma, it lays like a pall sometimes like a blanket over the neighborhood as it did Friday night the 27th of June, it was my birthday.

Reid has taken to passing a petition in the neighborhood demanding action from town leaders, the State DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation), and from Baker Commodities Inc. The odor was at the center of legal action involving the New York State Attorney General back in the 1980s. Yet from 1997 to 2005 neighbors report almost no nuisance odor issues.

Since then Reid says neighbors have documented more than 300 complaints and nearly 80 of those have come in the past six months. Even winter months with record-low temperatures like this past January have seen an increased number of odor complaints reported.

The stench is most prevalent in the overnight hours when neighbors are told most of the rendering at the plant is actually done. On some days the morning hours between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. are especially pungent and on others the smell returns in the later evening hours. There are also many days when neighbors detect almost no odor at all, making predicting this stench even more difficult.

"It's spotty, it doesn't usually last all day but it has been getting worse over the last few years I think everybody would agree, said Reid. "We're really concerned with quality of life, being able to go out at nine, ten o'clock at night in your backyard and look at the stars and not get a lungful of this miasma, this stench.

"Two-weeks ago, three-weeks ago it was horrible...and we don't have conversations we're kind of stuck in how smelly it is, added Kemp-Schneider. "You can't get away from it once it's in your house it's there. You can close everything off and eventually it goes but it invades, it literally invades our space.

"The first problem is the Baker Commodities rendering plant, said Reid of neighbors concerns being ignored. The second problem is our town government which has ignored us for nine years and the third problem is the DEC.

The New York State DEC is the permitting agency that oversees operations at this rendering plant. A spokeswoman for the DEC said the specialist overseeing that operation was not immediately available for comment or information on Wednesday.

Penfield Town Supervisor Tony LaFountain tells 13WHAM News that the number of recent complaints hes received prompted him to schedule a meeting next week with the DEC and Baker Commodities.

The key is how do you get back to that state between the mid-90s and mid-2000s where neighbors say they didnt realize or almost forget they were there, said Supervisor LaFountain who has toured the facility and experienced the smell up-close, but not from the neighborhoods perspective.

Ive had the benefit to smell it right there firsthand and it stinks, said LaFountain. I dont know how to put it any other way other than it stinks.

Below is a detailed statement provided to 13WHAM News by a spokesman for Baker Commodities Inc.


Baker Commodities Statement to the Media

One of the rendering industrys biggest challenges, always, are nuisance odorssimply by virtue of what we do. We have had odor issues throughout the past couple of years at our Rochester recycling facility and have always addressed them immediately. We comply with all Federal & State laws and work closely with organizations such as the Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to make sure we are in compliance at all times. We have deep ties to our community and look to work closely with them on all issues.

In 2013, we made major changes to our Air Scrubbing Systems. We began in 2012 by going through a temporary and portable field testing of the new systems, which had caused expected odors until the system was properly calibrated. By 2013 the system was purchased and installed. Both years we had expected calibration challenges, to adequately treat odors and had caused additional odor reports in the neighborhood as a result of expected startup procedures. We had numerous meetings with the neighbors, town officials and the DEC to thoroughly explain and get their approval of some of the existing start up challenges of providing air scrubbing equipment improvements.

As it stands now, we continue to analyze and make improvements this system to reach peak efficiencies from the Air Scrubber System upgrades. The equipment manufacturer, staff engineers and technicians continue to provide analysis and solutions for increasing these efficiencies and we feel we are very close to attaining that goal.

Baker has been very proactive with purchasing new equipment and evolving technologies as they come available to the recycling industry, which allow us to continuously reduce nuisance odors and work closely with our neighbors, town officials and the DEC.

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