Both the Bayonne City Council and Mayor James Davis have joined the opposition to a self-described renewable energy company’s proposal to build a human waste processing facility in Kearny.
Aries Clean Technologies is seeking to construct a facility for processing what it calls “biosolids,” commonly known as solid human waste that has been treated. The solid human waste would first be delivered to the facility in watertight trucks from regional wastewater treatment plants.
The facility would process the solid human waste, also referred to as sludge, by drying it and treating it to prevent odor. The process results in “biosolids,” which Aries then heats to high temperatures to “gasify.” That creates the final product, which it calls “biochar.” The “biochar” would be used in things like fertilizer and concrete manufacturing.
According to Aries’s plans, the facility would process 470 tons of “biosolids” per day, producing 25 tons of “biochar” daily. Permitting for the project is currently underway, and Aries estimates full operations by the second or third quarter of 2023.
The plan calls for the facility to be constructed in a heavy industrial area at 75 Jacobus Avenue. The neighborhood is defined by similar industrial uses, but residents say the plans for this facility, in a word, stink.
Bayonne stands against planned facility
This has prompted residents and members of the public, including Kearny Mayor Al Santos, to oppose the plans. Santos and the Kearny Town Council passed a resolution against the proposed facility “because of its environmental, health and land use impacts” at its Dec. 7 meeting.
In the wake of that, the Bayonne City Council passed a resolution at its Dec. 15 meeting supporting Kearny’s actions and opposing the “biosolids” processing facility. Mayor Davis also voiced his opposition to the plans.
“We support the right of Kearny and every municipality to make judgments about which businesses are appropriate for the environment in their community,” Davis said.
The plans for the facility are currently on hold pending a public hearing before the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection for necessary permits. The hearing was set for Dec. 13, but the town filed an objection with the NJDEP saying that the company did not give adequate public notice.
As a result, the town announced on Dec. 9 that the hearing was cancelled. Aries indicated in their cancellation notice that the hearing would be “rescheduled at a later date.”
‘Environmentally friendly’ versus ‘greenwashing’
While there is no date for a new hearing for the proposed facility, residents and officials alike have already organized against it. Critics of the facility have accused Aries of “greenwashing” their process, alleging that they use green terminology as a distraction because the “biosolids” are actually sludge and that the “biochar” is actually toxic ash. The alleged toxic ash is carcinogenic, critics claim, and would produce an overwhelming smell.
Meanwhile, Aries maintains that the “biochar” is non-hazardous, would not produce an odor, and that the “biochar” is created from “biosolids” not sludge. The sludge would be treated first and then turned into “biosolids” which would be treated further to become “biochar.” And the company chose the location for the proposed facility because it already receives sludge at a local transfer station at the site.
Arguments from both sides will likely be heard at the public hearing, whenever that may be rescheduled. In the meantime, Aries is constructing a “biosolids” facility in Linden, which it anticipates will be completed before the permitting of the Kearny facility is complete and “will serve as a demonstration of the validity of the Aries technology.”
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.