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Residents are fighting back against plastics odors in this small NY town

by stevie with CA4O , Hara214 , joyofsoy , michaelwma | December 04, 2019 16:50 04 Dec 16:50 | #21416 | #21416

We live near a large manufacturer in Orangetown, NY called Aluf Plastics which has been emitting noxious odors into our community for many years. The facility processes plastic materials into plastic bags and also recycles polyethylene. Aluf runs six days a week 24 hours a day. The factory opened with seven extruders and eight bag machines in 1986. The plant now operates 70 blown film lines and is approximately 500,000 square feet. The factory is located a ½ mile or less to a high school, an elementary school, playgrounds, athletic fields, a college and their dorms, several preschools, a walking trail, churches, and many homes. This factory literally sits in the middle of our community.

Over the years, the factory expanded operations significantly without proper oversight and the odors intensified. The noxious odors that are emitted from Aluf have been negatively affecting the community for decades. The odors have been described as "burning/burnt plastic, with and without a floral odor; plastic; floral/ perfume; chemical; choking, potent and noxious." Residents complain of headaches, sore throats, nausea, and dizziness from exposure to the noxious odors. This week, Kelly Turturo, Regional Director, Region 3, New York State, Department of Environmental Conservation, sent a letter to Aluf's lawyer stating that the "odors from the Aluf facility (are) affecting nearby residential areas constituting interference with comfortable enjoyment of life and property."

In 2016, the odors became even more troublesome and our grassroots group, Clean Air for Orangetown (CA4O) was formed, forcing the Town and State to address ongoing odors from Aluf Plastics. Our group has obtained volumes of information on Aluf's history in Orangetown, NY (1986- present) through the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). We have advocated for air testing and after a lot of advocacy some limited testing took place in 2017. Experts agreed that aldehydes escaping from the factory may be causing the odors. When the officials agreed on what should be tested for and the method that should be used, residents were given the chance to capture the fumes in their backyards by using air canisters. When the results of those tests came back with concerning results, we heard lots of excuses. First we were told not to worry; the levels of carcinogens such as acrolein were not harmful unless you were exposed to them for prolonged periods. When local scientists and doctors expressed their own concerns because our community is living with these odors -- not for hours or even days, but for YEARS -- a long silence ensued. Finally after several months, the government agencies and testing firm responded, saying that there was a problem with the testing method. The results were dismissed; the science was problematic. But residents were never again given the opportunity to test and in fact no further tests were taken during times of extreme odors.

The Town of Orangetown Justice Court recently found Aluf guilty for five separate odor violations in 2018. Aluf has constantly denied being the source of the odor, so a conviction in court is important. However, there have been over 1400 written complaints of odors from the factory since spring, 2016. Clean Air for Orangetown has record of approximately 700 complaints from 2016-2018. Eventually the Town of Orangetown initiated an official online complaint system and there have been over 700 since that system began in 2018. On November 26, 2019, Aluf was fined $75,000 for these odors in Orangetown Justice Court; yet in their closing remarks, the factory still took no responsibility for the odors.

Our group has a lot of information -- and it's too much for us to process ourselves. But none of the information makes us feel that it is safe for our children to be breathing in these noxious fumes day after day, year after year. They breathe these fumes while they are playing at preschool, riding bikes on the rail trail which borders the factory, playing lacrosse, football and running track on the hill near the factory where parents have complained of a field filled with blue haze. Our children breathe this air when they are sleeping in their bedrooms with the windows open as the factory continues manufacturing around the clock.

We have spent nearly four years advocating for clean air and it has only gotten worse. Even though the factory is now being prosecuted for the odors, the smells continue and adversely affect quality of life and enjoyment of property. The health impacts of exposure to these odors are unknown; our children are left covering their faces with their shirts and asking when it will stop smelling. We welcome any help to process the information we have and figure out what else can be done to stop these noxious odors.

Here are some questions we have that we're looking for support with:

What are air testing labs or companies we can recommend to our town board that our community can trust?

How do we keep the pressure and momentum high after a recent court ruling win?

What are the health impacts of the Aluf Plastics Plant from air pollution?

Read more about our issue on our project page here and subscribe for updates.


8 Comments

@stevie has marked @CA4O as a co-author.

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@stevie has marked @joyofsoy as a co-author.

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@stevie has marked @Hara214 as a co-author.

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I assume y'all are talking to center for biological diversity and looking for nurdles in the rivers? it may not be enough for a lawsuit, but searching for plastics in the water can be educational, and help build allies.

think about partnering with a local watershed group to search for nurdles. if you find any, reach out to other water groups, maybe even NY aquarium on Coney Island?

Air impacts to you are water pollution impacts to potential allies downstream. also, you could get outside in a relatively safe way--nurdles aren't as dangerous as ethylene oxide.

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see this here: https://biologicaldiversity.org/w/news/press-releases/legal-petition-seeks-new-air-pollution-standards-petrochemical-plants-2019-12-03/

maybe there's a way to get your state reps to take action and pass a similar rule at the new jersey level, while the national petition works its way through the US Congress?

Can you find legislators to introduce anti-odor and anti-ethylene legislation at the state level? even if you don't pass a bill, it's good to have a champion or two at your legislature. often we find that we win very well in court, only to find that the oil lobby changes the law a year after we win the lawsuit. having a friend in the legislature can help stop that kind of corruption.

I wish we had a better state lege in louisiana, or that's what i would be doing. we've often considered donating to their campaigns, like the oil lobby does, although many of us don't want to participate in that kind of corruption. you'd be surprised / depressed how inexpensive it is to influence the legislature.

be on the lookout for expansions of this kind of facility. Oil and Gas is looking to the Plastics industry to bail them out--to artificially increase the demand for oil and gas, because efficiency improvements and clean energy are tanking their business models.

Scot

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sorry, new york, not new jersey, my apologies!

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nice to read this such great article. nicely written. very good information. Thank you
keep it up.This is very inspiring! Thank you very much for sharing it.

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