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Recycling plant draws complaints about smell, trash, flies

Neighbor says state, local agencies are not enforcing laws


SAN ANTONIO - A man living next door to a waste recycling plant on the east side said he is still struggling with flies, trash and an odor problem four years after the plant’s grand opening.

There was a celebration at the opening of the Greenstar recycling plant in 2009 as the city-affiliated plant went online to handle recycled material near Foster Road and Interstate 10.

Neighbor Roger Osborne was not one of those celebrating.

"It's just flies everywhere out here," Osborne said. “The situation continually deteriorated to the point that I literally could not go out in my backyard on the weekends.”

He said he has been battling the plant not just over the flies, but the smell, rodents and trash associated with it as well.

In the summer of 2013, he collected flies and had them studied by an entomologist.

"I had the insect report from the entomologist,” Osborne said. “These (flies) are a health threat, they're a serious health threat. They carry cholera (and) amoebic dysentery. Cholera can be fatal."

He reported the insects to the health department and was told that it does not deal with flies.

Stephen J. Barscewski, Metro Health’s sanitarian services manager, said the department has had many meetings with Osborne. He said Metro Health can treat drainage ditches for mosquitoes and rats but not private property. And not flies.

"We do not spray for flies, we do not bait for flies, we do not trap flies,” Barscewski said. “We, of course, have baited as needed and regularly inspected the drainage ditch. We have taken action to cure the problems within our scope of jurisdiction.”

Code Enforcement Services with the city has not had a problem with trash there.

As for odors, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality did cite the plant at least one time but the odors have persisted, according to Osborne.

Other neighbors have also complained as well.

Brian Jones owns Security and Public Safety Training Institute across the street from Osborne and said the smell from the plant has been an issue for him and his customers.

"There's been very few days that we've not had overwhelming trash smell," Jones said. “We have had people that have come here for our longer, three-, four-, five-day courses that have said that they just can't handle it and they just don't come back. We have lost business.”

But Osborne does credit new owner Waste Management with improving the plant.

"Since they have taken this place over, the garbage is contained 100 percent better than it was," Osborne said. “The misting situation, they absolutely increased the amount of nozzles. The smell has almost gone away and they even leave it running in the evening.”

Still, he said the problems persist with the plant and some entity or agency should be stepping in to make it more palatable for the neighborhood.

Albert Perez of Waste Management said the company has been working with Osborne on his concerns.

"We've listened and we've been responding," Perez said. "Short of shutting down this facility, I don't know that we'll ever satisfy all of his concerns."

Perez said the company has replaced machinery, installed a weather-monitoring system, a new misting system, put slats on fences to keep flies and trash down and has hired a pest control company. He said it even has assigned people to pick up litter.

“We've also brought in fly-control experts to come monitor our environmental process,” Perez said. “We have traps, rodent traps. We have fly traps all around the facility and they're monitored by our pest control company twice a week.”

The fact remains that this once-rural area on the east side of San Antonio has now become industrial. Laws to keep it livable either are not on the books or are not being enforced as aggressively as Osborne would like.

State Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon represents that area in the legislature. She wrote a letter to San Antonio City Manager Sheryl Sculley asking that the city enforce proper rules to clean up the plant.

Sculley wrote back that everything necessary is being done by the city.

For a list of recent stories Brian Mylar has done, click here.

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