While completion of the moderate income housing complex in Calabash Boom is still about a month away, the waste water treatment facility at the site has already come under fire.
About 25 residents of developer Reliance Housing Foundation’s newest St. John project and nearby Calabash Boom neighbors met with Department of Planning and Natural Resources Commissioner Robert Mathes and other government officials at a Monday evening, November 23, meeting at Sputnik in Coral Bay about the issue.
Residents cited several problems with the sewage treatment facility: noise; odor; safety; and aesthetics.
Calabash Boom neighbors and residents who live in several apartment buildings adjacent to the waste water facility complained of having to keep their windows and doors closed due to the constant noise and odor emanating from the area.
“People love their new apartments and don’t want to make trouble, but they are being forced to keep their windows shut and their doors closed because of the smell,” said Antonette Badami who lives in the area and moderated the meeting.
Residents also complained of looking out their windows upon the open tanks of treated water.
“People who live there don’t want to look down into the tanks of putrid water,” said Badami. “Having huge waste water treatment tanks outside their windows is unacceptable. The right thing needs to be done.”
Safety issues were also raised at the meeting. While the facility is surrounded by a small fence, the gate is often left unlocked, allowing easy access by children, Badami explained.
“Initially there was no fence,” she said. “Then they put in a fence, but it’s only about six feet tall and even five feet tall in some areas. Every time I have been there the gate has been open.”
“Many parents are concerned that their children could get into this area easily and it could be very dangerous,” Badami said.
There have been problems with the Calabash Boom moderate income community’s waste water treatment facility since it first went online back in April.
“When it start operating it sounded like we were living on an airport tarmac,” Badami said. “We couldn’t sleep with our windows open. It was a constant noise, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
Residents contacted Reliance Housing Foundation president Robert Jackson and DPNR officials immediately and got a quick response, Badami explained.
“We talked to Reliance and to DPNR who came out and toured the site,” she said. “They agreed to build a make-shift soundproofing around the blowers so that we would be able to sleep.”
At that point, residents in the area were hopeful that the problem would not last. The initial soundproofing helped a great deal and the developer also planned to install a more permanent solution, according to Badami.
It quickly became apparent, however, that the problems with the sewage treatment facility were getting worse.
“That is when residents started noticing a smell in the area,” said Badami. “I can’t smell it from my house, but people who live in the two apartment buildings next to the facility said they had to close their windows because of the smell. And then they trapped the smell in.”
Residents were still in contact with Reliance and still hoped to resolve the issue before conditions worsened.
“We thought this was going to be worked out with Reliance,” said Badami. “But then we stopped getting any answers and people started to get nervous that nothing would be done.”
As the development neared completion, which is expected in about five weeks, residents worried that concerns with the waste water treatment facility would not be addressed.
“Reliance is finishing the project and we if we can’t get them to address this now, how will we be able to get them to deal with it after construction is complete,” said Badami. “The concern was that this would just be left and nothing would get done.”
While DPNR does not have authority to force Reliance to build a structure around the facility, Jackson is expected to meet with government officials this week, according to Mathes.
“Mr. Jackson will be here after Thanksgiving and we’ll discuss the matter,” said the DPNR Commissioner. “We don’t have the leverage as far as forcing him to build an entire structure to enclose the facility, but we could do some creative thinking.”
“We’ll do our best to represent your concerns and try to convince him to do more,” said Mathes. “We’ll try to use moral persuasion.”