Cosmo says temporary odor problem a result of draining ponds

Central Park residents needn’t worry, the smell that has been wafting east from the Cosmo Specialty Fibers mill will soon be gone, the company says.

Bob Buchan, a mill spokesman, said the odor was the result of some much-needed maintenance being performed on two of the facility’s effluent treatment ponds. The ponds were drained last week so workers could access the aerators, and the mud lining the bottoms of the ponds was exposed.

“It’s like the tide going out, sometimes the mud that’s left behind doesn’t smell very good,” Buchan said. “But when there’s water over the top, you don’t really smell it.”

For much of the time that the stinky sludge was exposed, the wind blew east from the ponds — prompting complaints from many Central Park residents and some people in East County.

Buchan said Cosmo Specialty Fibers didn’t know the odor would be so bad before draining the ponds, as they haven’t been drained since Weyerhaeuser, the mill’s former owner, shut down the facility in 2007. Gores Group LLC purchased the mill in 2010 and re-opened it under the name Cosmo Specialty Fibers.

“We didn’t know what was down there before,” Buchan said.

The sludge remained exposed longer than Cosmo Specialty Fibers officials would have hoped. The aerators, which usually operate on the surface of the pond, were caught on a piece of metal when crews tried to re-fill the ponds. They had to re-drain the ponds, re-situate the aerators and try filling the ponds again.

But Buchan said the situation could have been much worse — the company could have drained all four of the ponds instead of just two.

“Weyerhaeuser used to do all four ponds at once, but that could have been too big of a stink,” Buchan said.

The other two ponds will probably be drained and worked on next year.

Now, the mill is back up-and-running, Buchan said. And the two updated ponds should be a lot less stinky in coming months.