What was that smell?

Source of noxious odor in Bayonne still a mystery

The odor seemed to waft over Newark Bay, health agencies said.
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The odor seemed to waft over Newark Bay, health agencies said.

“Smelled like rotten, dead fish,” one resident posted. Other residents said the odor was like “straight up garbage,” “low tide,” “burning coal,” “death,” and “sewage, poop, rancid cat food, and dead bodies all in one.”

No, that’s not a college kid’s dorm room.

Bayonne residents were recently plagued by an odor that wafted over the city for several days at the end of September. Residents used a colorful palette of metaphors online to describe the stench.

One resident said the smell was too much for her dog moments after the dog stepped outside.

“He’s like, ‘nope,’ and turned around and came in.” Bayonne resident

Reports on the odor became widespread on the night of Sept. 24 when residents reported that they experienced dizziness and nausea as a result. Complaints seemed to fizzle out after several days.

According to multiple reports, the many complaints came from Bayonne, Jersey City, and Staten Island.

The Bayonne Office of Emergency Management provided an update on Sept. 25, stating that the Hudson Regional Health Commission (HRHC) is looking into the matter.

The OEM provided another update on the evening of Sept. 26, stating that it was still receiving calls.

“The HRHC responded to a couple of complaints in Bayonne last night and confirmed an odor,” the update said. “The type and source could not be determined. HRHC also responded to a couple of complaints earlier in the evening from Jersey City.”

The Bayonne Office of Emergency Management urged anyone affected by the noxious odor to contact the HRHC at 201-2230-1133 during business hours.

Outside of business hours, it urged residents to call the Department of Environmental Protection hotline at 1-877-927-6337.

Come from away?

The HRHC said that the smell seemed to have wafted over Newark Bay.

If the smell is coming from outside the county, the DEP would likely have to get involved, because it would be outside the HRHC’s jurisdiction.

By press time, no health or environmental departments had determined the source of the smell.

On Sept. 19, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced a lawsuit against a processing plant that uses leftover animal products in Newark’s Ironbound District.

Grewal alleged that Darling Ingredients, Inc., a plant that recycles animal byproducts and grease into materials like feed and fuel components, was responsible for “multiple community complaints of ‘putrid’ and nausea-inducing odors, including ‘animal carcass odors.’”

The DEP alleged that it traced numerous local complaints to the plant. Grewal charged the plant with being out of compliance with operating permits since 2017. The permits involve emission control equipment tied to preventing odor release.

So far, five separate odor complaints against the plant were verified by the DEP, Grewal said.

In the lawsuit against the plant on behalf of the state, Grewal is seeking a court order for the plant to carry out immediate and permanent relief efforts.

The lawsuit also seeks a court order requiring Darling to retain an outside environmental consultant to prepare a report on how to eliminate the odors, and provide the DEP with monitoring reports on Darling’s progress in doing so.

The lawsuit seeks Darling’s compliance with permit conditions, and payment of civil penalties under the Air Pollution Control Act for its past violations.

The Bayonne Community News sent a request to spokesperson Lee Moore from the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office for comment on whether prosecutors believe that there is a connection between the plant’s alleged violations and the odor that hit Bayonne a week after the lawsuit was announced.

By press time, Moore had not provided a response.

No other state agencies have made statements on whether the plant was ruled out as the source of the stench, and did not name any other suspected causes of the odor.

At press time, the origin of the smell was still a mystery.

For updates on this and more stories check hudsonreporter.com or follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Mike Montemarano can be reached at mikem@hudsonreporter.com.