Sunday, January 25, 2004

This composite of renderings visualize what the proposed sewage-to-fertilizer processing plant at Sand Island would look like, shown with arrow.

Sludge plant firm
paid supporter

The chairwoman of a Bronx, N.Y., community board resigned under pressure Jan. 13, because of complaints about her trip to Honolulu last month in support of a planned sewage sludge plant here.

Marta Rivera was one of two members of the Bronx Community Board No. 2 who told Honolulu City Council members on Dec. 3 that New York Organic Fertilizer Co. is a good neighbor.

Rivera's weeklong trip to Honolulu was paid for by the fertilizer plant's parent company, Synagro.

The Houston-based Synagro has a contract with the city to build and operate a $34 million facility to convert sewage sludge to pelletized fertilizer at the city's Sand Island Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Approval of a city zoning permit needed for the project to go ahead is on the Wednesday City Council agenda.

A number of Sand Island businesses and residents have raised objections to the proposed plant, including the Sand Island Business Association.

Rodney Kim, association executive director, said that at the Dec. 3 council meeting Rivera "obviously spoke favorably" about the New York plant, but when asked directly if there are any problems with air quality, she said there were.

Also testifying in Honolulu Dec. 3 was Lisa Alvarado-Sorin, a member of Bronx Community Board No. 2 and a paid community outreach consultant for the New York sludge plant, who said yesterday, "I believe in what they do."

Rivera could not be reached for comment yesterday. In her resignation letter, she wrote, "Unfortunately, community organizations and board members have expressed disapproval over my decision to go on the trip."

In the letter, Rivera didn't apologize for or attempt to explain her decision, but did vow to continue serving on the board.

Accepting the trip paid for by Synagro wasn't illegal, said Andrea Eisner, a staff analyst for the Bronx Community Board No. 2. "But Synagro paid for her (Rivera) to go over and it owns (the fertilizer company) , which is a very controversial company in this community."

Another board member, Majora Carter, said that the Sustainable South Bronx community advocacy group, which she serves as executive director, has had questions about health risks from the emissions of the sludge plant since it began operations in 1993.

Carter said the board will vote Wednesday on whether to remove Rivera and Alvarado-Sorin from the board because of the Honolulu trip.

Synagro spokesman Alvin Thomas said the company paid for Alvarado-Sorin and Rivera's trip "to make sure everybody's questions were answered." He didn't know the cost of the trip yesterday.


E-mail to City Desk


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2004 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --