A New York bag manufacturer and nearby residents are having a disagreement that literally reeks.
According to a Feb. 20 lawsuit, residents say the factory regularly emits foul odors that plague surrounding neighborhoods.
The company, Aluf Plastics Inc. in Orangetown, N.Y., counters that it's being unfairly targeted and sits in a valley with other manufacturing operations that could be culpable, including sewage treatment plants and factories with incinerators.
One thing is clear: It's a serious dispute — one that doesn't show signs of immediately lessening. The residents' lawsuit is just the latest episode in a years-long concern that's made Aluf an issue in local elections and led to heated public hearings.
Aluf, in fact, filed its own lawsuit against the local government in Orangetown a little over a month ago, challenging the legality of a new ordinance that aims to compel the company to pay for more testing, when the company said it's been cleared by multiple previous tests.
Six residents filed the Feb. 20 lawsuit, seeking class-action status, and their lawyer, Michael Greenspan, said more than 195 nearby homes have contacted him to document claims of odors they attribute to Aluf. Up to 3,000 homes within 1.5 miles could be impacted, the suit said. Greenspan is with the firm Greenspan & Greenspan in White Plains, N.Y.
In all, neighbors have made more than 100 complaints to the company and the state Department of Environmental Conservation since early 2016, the lawsuit said.
“Defendant's manufacturing methods, and specifically its extrusion process, have caused noxious odors to be emitted from its facility and invade the residences of the adjacent community,” the lawsuit said.
The state DEC has issued three notices of violation against the company for odors and faulty ductwork since May 2016, and Orangetown has also issued its own citation, the lawsuit said.
But David Anderson, Aluf's vice president of operations, argues that the company is going well beyond what similar plastics processing factories have done in filtering emissions.
The factory has passed eight different air quality tests administered by federal, state and local governments and spent more than $1 million on filters and emissions control upgrades since 2008.
“We are trying to do business in the Hudson Valley in New York, that is not friendly to businesses, especially plastics businesses,” Anderson said.
“There is a strong movement by misguided or ill-intended members of the group known as Clean Air for Orangetown to continue to test or to compel the town of Orangetown to test until they can find anything to attribute to Aluf Plastics,” he said.
He said the company's upgrades include equipment installed since 2013 specifically at the request of the state DEC in response to community concerns.
“It is significant to note that none of the tests revealed elevated levels of odor-causing or harmful compounds in our air emanating from Aluf,” Anderson said.
But the lawsuit quotes plaintiffs Elizabeth and Joseph Dudley that odors from the factory force them indoors: “We feel captive in our own home.”
An Orangetown official noted in a Dec. 19 public meeting that town inspectors continue to find a “strong smell” of plastics and industrial perfumes coming from the building during their visits earlier that month.
She also noted what seemed to be resin pellets in pipes that feed nearby waterways and said her agency made referrals to other regulators.
Jane Slavin, the director of building, zoning, planning, administration and enforcement for Orangetown, suggested officials were being cautious and thorough in their reviews as they seek to determine if Aluf's previous upgrades addressed the concerns.
“We understand the frustration expressed by the neighbors,” Slavin said. “While it may seem that nothing is being done, we are working diligently to enforce the provisions of our town code. ... Each step needs to be carefully taken to ensure a viable solution and prosecution, if prosecution is required.”
Anderson said the company has set up a website, www.alufcommunity.com, to communicate what it's done and its viewpoint. He believes the factory is targeted because it's one of the largest manufacturers in the area, employing 450. The lawsuit said the plant has grown from eight extrusion lines 30 years ago to 80 today and operates 24 hours a day in a 500,000-square-foot facility.
Anderson argued the factory contributes economically to the area: “It is the residents of Orangetown who stand to lose when good businesses stay away or existing businesses are forced out.”