N.Y.- A strong odor has once again been attributed to New Jersey by New Yorkers, but this time it’s sweet.
A maple syrup scent that has occasionally wafted across the metropolitan region over the last several years came from a North Bergen fragrance and flavoring plant, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.
The smell has never been a health hazard and the company, Frutarom USA Inc., has not violated any air quality regulations with its sugary-smelling emissions, Bloomberg said.
However the company has a history of polluting, which culminated in an almost half-million dollar fine in 2007 to the state Department of Environmental Protection.
Thursday’s announcement ends a mystery that began when residents of Manhattan’s Upper West Side and Morningside Heights started inundating New York officials with complaints of the syrupy scent in 2005. Based on wind conditions on the days the scent was detected, officials believed the source was somewhere in Bergen or Hudson County.
The smells drifted through much of northern Manhattan most recently on Jan. 5 and Jan. 29. The incidents prompted scores of calls to emergency officials.
New York officials and the DEP took three air samples in New York and one near the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee on Jan. 29. The monitors detected traces of fenugreek CQ seeds, which are used in the production of flavoring for artificial maple syrups. It is not harmful if inhaled.
The only plant using the seeds was Frutarom’s block-long facility at 9500 Railroad Ave. in North Bergen, officials said.
“Given the evidence, I think it’s safe to say that the Great Maple Syrup Mystery has finally been solved,” Bloomberg said a news conference.
In a statement, Frutarom said it was surprised by Bloomberg’s announcement.
“Fenugreek is a natural product that has been produced here for over 30 years in compliance with all laws and regulations,” the company said in a statement.
A receptionist at the North Bergen facility said executives would not answer questions.
In 2007, Frutarom was fined $463,500 in 2007 by the DEP for repeatedly polluting a tributary of the Hackensack River and failing to monitor its air emissions.
The state cited the company for failing to monitor air emissions of volatile organic compounds, chemicals that can lead to headaches, dizziness and other health ailments. The company also altered equipment without getting the required approval from state regulators, the DEP said.
Its plant released a variety of pollutants into nearby Bellmans Creek, the state said, including oil and grease, petroleum compounds and soil and sediment. The DEP alleged 58 water violations between April 2001 and October 2006.
While the department didn’t cite specific damage to the creek, the releases violated Frutarom’s state permit and put water and wildlife at risk, the DEP said at the time it issued the fine.
Frutarom, headquartered in Israel, is among the top 10 fragrance and flavoring companies in the world with $368 million in revenues in 2007, according to the company’s Web site. Its North Bergen facility houses a flavors and fine ingredients division, which processes aroma chemicals, essential oils and natural extracts.
Officials investigating the syrup smell had previously focused on the Naturex laboratory in South Hackensack after residents in Hackensack, River Edge and Oradell noticed a sweet smell in the air similar to maple syrup in March 2007. Bloomberg said he could not rule out other contributors to the maple scent.
When asked if the announcement perpetuated a stereotype of New Jersey as an emitter of noxious fumes, Bloomberg said it “was totally unfair.”
“It’s a beautiful state,” he said.
(News Source: NorthJersey .com)