A Slaughterhouse on Main Street--
September 9, 2009 The proposed 50,730-square-foot poultry slaughterhouse in New Square would not only create the type of air pollution called "brown air" throughout the surrounding neighborhoods, it would also have a disastrous impact on the supply of potable water. Slaughterhouses like these also negatively impact waste-water systems, storm and sewer, and this one is to be built on one of the more traveled roads (Route 45) in Ramapo. The firestorm created by the plan is a reaction to the size, the location, and the politics of the decision—the last of which has a particularly offensive odor.
When the Rockland County Planning Board rejected the proposal for a slaughterhouse in New Square, they were very clear about what was wrong with the plan.
It is, according to the County Board, "An incompatible industrial use that should not be permitted alongside residential properties." It is more than 7,000 square feet larger than allowed, and it is unacceptable for a site located on a heavily traveled state highway (Route 45—North Main Street).
The County also found it unacceptable that New Square did not explain what the hours of operation would be, nor did they explain the number of animals processed. They also did not explain how water usage would be addressed. The question about whether there was sufficient sewer capacity wasn’t answered. The Village authorities also didn’t explain how waste products would be handled, particularly how they would be kept out of the storm drainage system.
And they didn’t explain how they would control odors. This is interesting because although New Square didn’t have answers about the air pollution when they were presenting their proposal to the County planners, Ramapo Supervisor St. Lawrence confidently assured WRCR radio listeners that there would be no problems with odors—that the plant would be "state of the art." How he was able to defend the quality of the operations without specifics on brown air, water, sewers, traffic, etc. makes it clear that the Supervisor had already assumed the role of advocate for New Square and the slaughterhouse. On the same radio program, St. Lawrence was asked about an article 78 lawsuit from the Town if the plant would create an environmental disaster in the area. He said he would not sue—siding, with New Square, no matter what facts are developed in environmental reviews. His unquestioned loyalty is the result of his dependence on the bloc vote.
To get some perspective on how outrageous this proposal is, consider the following advice from a UN Food and Agriculture Organization white paper on Poultry Processing throughout the world:
"The slaughterhouse should be situated away from residential areas. Access for animals - either by road, rail and/or stock route - must be assured. The slaughterhouse should be located in areas where flooding is impossible. An abundant supply of potable water as well as adequate facilities for treatment and disposal is important."
Even in developing countries, the first consideration is to avoid residential areas. Two years ago, in one of the developing 8 (D-8) countries, Indonesia, the national government actually created a ban on slaughterhouses in residential neighborhoods.
Headline from The Jakarta Post, January 12, 2007: "Indonesia To Ban Poultry Processing in Residential Areas."
So in the D-8 and in those areas getting help and money from the United Nations’ FAO, you can’t build a poultry slaughterhouse where people live. In Hillcrest, well, I guess that’s another story.
This is the site, right on Route 45 where the New Square slaughterhouse is to be built. It seems work has begun on something already. (photo 9/7)
Below is the neighborhood on Rovitz Place, directly across the street from the site. What will separate the slaughterhouse from the neighbor’s houses will be the width of Route 45.
On November 13, 2008, United Water announced in a press release: "United Water New York Completes Construction—New, elevated storage tank will improve water pressure in parts of Ramapo." The new 400,000-gallon tank in New Hempstead was twice the size of the tank it replaced. "The new tank, UW explained, "will allow the creation of the Summit Park Pressure District, an area with enhanced, high-pressure service that will serve the residents of Hillcrest and New Square."
The new tank was badly needed. Hillcrest and New Square had suffered through several summers of brown water at the end of the season, with dangerously low water pressures for firefighting.
Unfortunately for the residents, the new tank will not be sufficient if the slaughterhouse is built. Poultry slaughter and processing are water-intensive processes. North Carolina State Univ. Cooperative Extension explains that "water is used for many purposes in poultry processing—scalding, washing, waste fluming, chilling, and cleanup." An even greater demand was created in 1998 with the implementation of HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points), which increased the demand for water for health and safety reasons. Prior to HACCP, "some plants were using less than 4 gallons per broiler [processed]. After the implementation, average water usage increased to 9 ½ gallons per bird." Perhaps this is the reason the County Planning Board was not given the number of birds to be processed daily.
Last month, Orange County lawyers amended its lawsuit against Kiryas Joel’s proposed connection to the Catskill Aqueduct. The new charge concerned a poultry slaughterhouse—the KJ Meat Market Corp. located on one acre inside the Village of Kiryas Joel. The kosher slaughtering plant is 8,500 square feet and it currently uses 200,000-225,000 gallons of water per day in its operations.
The kosher slaughtering plant planned for New Square was reported to the County as 50,730 square feet. Do the math. 50,730 divided by 8,500 equals 5.97—the New Square facility will be almost six times the size of the KJ plant. 5.97 times 212,000 (average) gals/day equals 1,265,265 gals/day needed here in New Hempstead just for the chickens. One and a quarter million gallons exceeds the new water tank by a factor of a little over three times. So I guess the local residents will be back to sipping brown water. At least it will be compatible with the brown air rustling the living room curtains on its way into their homes.
There’s one other problem with water—the production of wastewater. There was another lawsuit concerning the much smaller Kiryas Joel slaughterhouse. From the Times Herald-Record Nov. 28, 2008:
"The latest sewer lawsuit between Kiryas Joel and Orange County involves a village slaughterhouse and a tide of wastewater fit for a horror movie. The village is suing over a $235,477 bill the county sent for allegedly inadequate removal of chicken blood and guts from the grisly effluent that flows daily from Kiryas Joel’s slaughterhouse to a nearby sewage-treatment plant run by the county. County Attorney David Darwin [said] that the strain of removing chicken gore from the wastewater reduced the plant’s treatment capacity by as much as 300,000 gallons a day, or nearly a third." The problem persists despite two attempts by KJ Meat Market to find a solution. In 2004, the company paid $500,000 for a pre-treatment facility "to filter out pollutants before piping the heavy wastewater flow into the nearby sewer plant. When that equipment proved inadequate, the market spent another $500,000 on improvements, and plans yet another $1 million in upgrades." (Times Herald-Record)
You’d think that as the Vice-Chair of the Rockland County Sewer District #1, St. Lawrence would have factored these possibilities into his considerations. Obviously stuffed ballot boxes take precedence over reeking storm drains choked with bloody feathers and offal.
"Oh my God, this is outrageous," said Dessau, who has been mayor for more than 20 years. "They’re making it sound very sanitary, calling it a processing plant. But the waste and the pollution, it’s in the middle of a residential area. It’s totally incompatible."
Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski, commenting on the $1.62 million in state aid given to the project told the Journal, "Taxpayer money should not be rewarded to such a controversial project until the concerns of government officials and citizens are satisfactorily addressed."
"Following a $1.6 million state grant for a kosher chicken slaughterhouse in New Square, Haverstraw Supervisor Howard Phillips is asking the state attorney general to investigate the process by which municipalities are chosen for awards of public money."
And then there’s Ramapo Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence. His advice? Just chill. There isn’t going to be any odor problem. This is going to be a state-of-the-art slaughterhouse. No need for talk of lawsuits or investigations.
Chill? Hmmm? That’s the step in the process that follows right after the plucking, right?