Southeast Queens residents, environmentalists reach settlement with Jamaica waste transfer station operators

Southeast Queens residents have rallied against the two waste transfer stations on Douglas Avenue in Jamaica for years. (Photos courtesy of NY Lawyers for the Public Interest)

Two southeast Queens residents and environmental justice advocates Riverkeeper and NY/NJ Baykeeper reached a final settlement with the operators of two Jamaica waste transfer stations in their Clean Water Act and Nuisance lawsuit. The settlements will lead to structural and operative changes at the waste transfer stations on Douglas Avenue to contain the odor, noise and dust, as well as more effectively manage stormwater to help protect the waters of Jamaica Bay from pollutants.

The lawsuit alleged that the American Recycling Management and Regal Recycling Co. waste transfer stations violated the Clean Water Act, by virtue of unpermitted stormwater discharges into a city storm sewer and caused a private nuisance to the individual plaintiffs. Both American and Regal deny those allegations.

(Photo courtesy of NY Lawyers for the Public Interest)

Southeast Queens residents have advocated for improved practices and reduced pollution from waste transfer stations for decades.

“If American and Regal do what they say they are going to do, the whole neighborhood will benefit from cleaner air and less dust,” said Caroll Forbes, a plaintiff who lives blocks away from the stations and is a member of Riverkeeper and NY/NJ Baykeeper. “I am looking forward to the change if it really happens.”

The settlement will protect wildlife and the waters of Jamaica Bay. (QNS/File)

As part of the settlement, American has committed to pursuing planned renovations that will enclose facility operations, and improve odor control, noise abatement and dust controls.

“American has worked hard to meet the many overlapping legal requirements applicable to its critical waste management function and we are proud of our environmental record,” American Chief Financial Officer Dominic Susino said. “ We also acknowledge that the nearby residents live proximate to a number of industrial and transportation uses that impact their quality of life. We are entering into this settlement so that we can put our resources toward our planned improvements and community relationships rather than the costs of litigation.”

A representative for Regal declined to comment. However, the company has similarly committed to facility-wide changes such as an upgraded ventilation system, a new misting system for dust control, an additional enclosure in their construction and demolition debris building, as well as improved door operations to limit exposure to the outside.

“Under the agreement, the waste transfer stations will comply with environmental laws and take necessary steps to mitigate air and water pollution,” said Riverkeeper Senior Attorney Mike Dulong. “In addition to the community health benefits of reducing odors, dust and other pollutants that emanate from the waste transfer stations, the settlement will also help protect water quality in Jamaica Bay, which is used by thousands of recreators and hundreds of animal species.”

The residents and environmental groups were represented by New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI) and co-counsel Super Law Group in the lawsuit and since the lawsuit’s filing, both American and Regal have filed for coverage under Clean Water Act general permits for stormwater discharges and are taking all measures toward continued compliance with the Clean Water Act.

“This settlement will reduce the impacts of the waste transfer stations on the surrounding community and Jamaica Bay,” said Sonya Chung, Environmental Justice Staff Attorney at New York Lawyers for the Public Interest. “Through this lawsuit, residents of southeast Queens advocated for their now constitutionally protected right to clean water, clean air and a healthful environment. We are hopeful that the new practices and measures outlined in the settlement will be a step in that direction.”

The settlement will be reviewed by the Department of Justice before it is filed for approval by the federal court.