Veolia, an international waste management company, owns and operates the solid-waste transfer station along both sides of Church Street just east of Darrow Avenue. While the station is located in the Second and Fifth wards, it presents a City-wide concern.
There has been a transfer station there for decades. Veolia succeeded Onyx; before that it was Active Service Corporation. It is located on the City’s west side which has historically been a predominantly African American neighborhood.
Veolia, for the most part, appears to be operating within the law. But problems traceable to the transfer station persist: malodorous air, truck noise and fumes, and rats. At a recent Fifth Ward meeting, a discrepancy was noted between the hours of operation permitted by City ordinance and the actual hours of operation: Veolia may have to begin at 7 a.m. rather than 6:30. Neighbors say trucks are lined up and either idling or parking at 6:30 a.m.
The company is making efforts to be a good neighbor: It attempts to address the smell by misting the area daily with a surfactant designed by a company that says it custom-designs chemicals for such purposes. A pest-control service baits rat traps within the station area.
Veolia plans to demolish a building that has been in disuse for some time, transfer its fuel pumps from one part of the facility to another, widen the entrance and add landscaping and a barrier of trees behind the north-side facility.
These efforts, while laudable, are in our view not enough. The EPA’s manual for decision-making for Waste Transfer Stations, produced by its Office of Solid Waste Management, offers several concrete strategies for controlling noise, odors, dust and pests. Some of these Veolia is already doing or has pledged to do, such as planting trees, installing a charcoal filter and hiring a pest-management company.
Still, we urge Veolia to do these additonal things as soon as possible: totally enclose all waste-handling operations; use concrete walls and structures rather than metal ones and insulate them; install a ventilation system; use “odor vestibules,” in which the outer door closes before the inner door opens; and set up a community “odor complaint” phone line.
We also encourage the City to become more involved in improving the quality of life in the area around the transfer station. We recognize that Aldermen Lionel Jean-Baptiste and Delores Holmes have set up channels of communication among the residents, Veolia and the City.
Of course, the best way to improve the quality of life there would be to help Veolia relocate in a non-residential area. We understand that they have offered to move but City officials did not pursue that offer.
Short of that, we suggest the following:
• The City should ensure that Veolia is operating within state, federal and City laws and encourage the company to comply with best practices listed by the EPA.
• The police should monitor the area in the early morning for trucks violating the anti-idling ordinance or the parking ban on Church Street.
• In addition to the transfer station fees to be assessed next year, the City should work with Veolia to set up a neighborhood impact fund, to help mitigate the deterioration of quality of life in the area attributable to Veolia’s actions.
We understand that transfer stations are an important part of the waste-management business.
Veolia must understand that neighbors want to live in an area where they are free to live in peace, free from rodents, noise and bad air.
If Veolia cannot manage to accomplish this at the Church Street station, they should work with the City to relocate – and to clean up the place before they turn the lights out.