Residents on North Wayne Avenue in West Haverstraw have been subjected to and complaining about the smell and noise of trucks at all hours of the day and night coming from the industrial area on Carol Avenue. Residents say these things are coming from portable toilets owned by a company called Johns to Go. (JTG). “The smell makes me nauseous. Especially when eating outdoors,” one resident said.
Owner of JTG Abe Breuer denies that the smell is coming from his company. He said the smell is coming from a kitchen manufacturing company. “When we came into the property four years ago, there was a kitchen company next to us,” he explained. “They manufacture kitchens, and several times the local Rockland County Health Department came over asking us if we have smelled an odor from them staining these kitchens.”
According to Breuer, they were told that the neighbors on Wayne had been complaining for years that the odor from the kitchen staining is basically bad and horrible. “We’re smelling crap. I know the difference between human waste and paint. I haven’t smelled paint,” one resident stated. “The smell just lingers. There is no reason for the residents on that block to live with that putrid smell.”
Breuer defended the accusation, stating, “The only thing I can tell you is, we have been a portable toilet company since 2004. When we came there as a renter, the kitchen company already had problems with the neighbors on Wayne.”
Another question raised by residents is whether the trucks are being used by JTG. The trucks were bought from Premiere Grease, a company that does grease traps. Residents have asked if they’re they safe to be pumping human waste into them without endangering the area by leaky trucks. Breuer responded, “The trucks are safe. They are from Premiere Grease and Safe to transfer human waste into.”
The simple explanation Breuer gave about the trucks is that in most states in the country, grease traps belong to the same permit as waste hauling. He added that the same manufacturer of the grease trucks often manufacture septic trucks and portable toilet trucks without asking the end user if they’re going to be hauling grease, septic or human waste. It seems like these two diverse businesses would require different types or classes of permit to operate. A firefighter verified that this is a fact. The two types of waste are sent to the same processing plant so the permits can be the same.
One of the reasons the residents raise the question about the safety of the trucks is that JTG placed a magnetic name tag over the existing Premiere Grease name permanently painted on the passenger door at minimum, and the name of Premiere Grease is still on the back of the truck where the tank is. Breuer claims they’re not trying to cover up a sticker with a sticker. “We’re accomplished in this business. We can cover up better than putting a small sticker on a bigger sticker.”
Another complaint is that the waste is not being disposed of properly. When they pump them out and clean them, where is water going afterwards? At the Town of Haverstraw Board meeting, Haverstraw Town Supervisor, Howard Phillips said, “It goes into the sewers and that is not allowed either.” Breuer said that all of the waste goes into the trucks. “Whatever is in the tank of the portable toilet gets sucked out by a vacuum that sits on a truck and that gets pumped into a truck and then the truck goes to a waste treatment plant. Nothing goes into the sewers or ground.”
Neighborhood residents say they have seen the toilets being cleaned out on the blacktop on dry days when it has not rained for a while and the blacktop is wet. As well as witnessing cleaning being done on the gravel area next to the blacktop.
What happens to residual waste not pumped out in the initial pumping? The stuff that sticks to the sides? “Units get pumped out by the vacuum and then it gets washed out and the left over is continuously pumped out. After the initial pumping, they take a garden hose with fresh water and spray wash around the tank by spraying it and continuing to pump up everything. By the time it is finished pumping, all they’re pumping essentially is fresh water and that goes right into the truck.”
All municipalities and many people are concerned with environmental impact and hazardous materials being transported through their communities. According to Breuer, nothing they do is considered a hazard at all. He gave an example of someone who drives a truck like this which if it would have been an oil truck, you would need a hazard license: “We do not need it because we are not considered hazard at all.”
JTG is due in court on January 16 to answer violations they have received for outside storage, hours of operation and violation of noise regulations. Residents said that they knew that the government was closed on Sunday 11/11 and Monday 11/12 for Veterans’ Day so they were out there at 6:26 a.m. again in violation of hours of operation and noise laws. One resident had called the police while they were violating the law and still nothing has been done. “They’re still continuing to violate the town noise regulations. “Town noise ordinance regulations allow for an 8 a.m. start. They were out there again today (1/7/19) at 6:30 am. All I am trying to do is get some sleep. I have to get up in the morning to go to work,” the resident said. “The noise from the trucks backing up and pumping interrupts my sleep and it throws off my day.”
Brewer said that outside storage has nothing to do with them. “We didn’t create the fact that we can put units here there and everywhere,” he said. Brewer further denied that they have never been given an eviction notice. Although Fred Viohl, West Haverstraw Building Inspector said at the Village Council meeting that the company and the landlord are facing fines for their actions and there are eviction proceedings filed in the Village Court.
West Haverstraw Mayor Robert D’Amelio, stated that the landlord and the company are trying to negotiate to get them out within an appropriate time. “West Haverstraw is taking appropriate action, but the government must abide by the law.” According to Phillips and D’Amelio, this could take up to 30 days. If they have to go to court it could take 60-90 days.
One possible solution D’Amelio mentioned to get this moving was that the landlord is willing to forgo back rent on the property for a promise to vacate the premises within a reasonable time. There are eviction proceedings going through the courts. Brewer further denies that there is any back money owed. “This is totally false. Every monthly payment was made within the first five days of the month as per the lease,” he said.
“We have had a history of being in the news positively the last 15 years we have been in business. But over here we’re dealing with an issue between the neighbors that’s not related to our business practice or paying our bills successfully. It has to do with something neighbors are saying,” he said sounding frustrated.“You guys do porta potties and we don’t want you here.”
The question then is, if you’re facing these kinds of problems with the neighbors, why not move to a location where these problems won’t exist? “Essentially we’re only able to move as much as I can untie the lease I have with the landlord and finding another place,” Breuer said.
Breuer mentioned that there is an article coming out in the New Yorker Magazine in a week or two, that a million people will see featuring the company as a great company.