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Midtown's Stinky Puddle Battled With Cactus Juice

By Jill Colvin | July 8, 2011 6:46pm | Updated on July 8, 2011 10:58pm

MIDTOWN — Midtown's smelly puddle may have authorities baffled, but a New Jersey man thinks he's discovered a cure for the stench — cactus juice.

"Bioliquid 5000," a potion made of cactus sap, can annihilate stinky scents wafting through the city — including West 33rd Street's persistent putrescence, says inventor Todd Koplin, 37.

Locals have described the smell, which lingers between Fifth and Sixth avenues, as a cross between rotten eggs, decaying carcasses and garbage.

After reading about complaints, Koplin headed to Midtown armed with his spray can and a trunk full of bottles Thursday to tackle the nasty stink, which he blames on algae, garbage and contaminants.

"As long as it's a smell, it's going to go away," he vowed before spraying the puddle — which has shrunk considerably since last week after days of unrelenting heat.

The solution, which Koplin describes as an "all-natural, cold-compressed juice" from a cactus belonging to the agave family, works by neutralizing ammonia, a common cause of odors, he said. It's so harmless, he even drank a cup to prove his point.

Once it's mixed with liquid, the solution becomes frothy brown in color and smells a lot like soy sauce.

Locals watched with curiosity Thursday as Koplin sprayed the remnants of the puddle, which bubbled as it was treated.

Koplin credits his dad, Roger, with discovering the cactus' smell-busting powers two decades ago when he was working as a scuba instructor in California — and received customer complaints that their wet suits smelled.

But when Koplin senior added the cactus extract to the dumping tanks where the scuba suits were washed, the odor magically disappeared.

"It literally kills odors at the source," Koplin said of the green solution.

Now, Koplin is the proud owner of a huge cactus plantation in Baja, Mexico, and hopes to capitalize on his dad's discovery.

While the same substance is used in countries across the globe in agriculture, where it's added in powder form to animal feed to reduce ammonia in pigs and cows, he sees serious potential here.

He envisions it being used across the city, not just on puddles but in street sweepers equipped with drip systems, sprayed inside of garbage trucks and even dropped in tablet-form in Porta-Potties, replacing the famous "blue stuff."

"Why just use it in agriculture when you have a city where people are covering their faces?" Koplin’s partner, Steve DeBenedicts, 45, said.

West 33rd Street residents credited the heat wave Thursday with providing a temporary reprieve from the smell of the puddle, which is much smaller than it was last week.

Though Sinead Noone, 21, a hostess at Jack Demsey's restaurant on the stretch, hoped Koplin's cure works, she expected the puddle to return with a vengeance with the next rain.

Fed Ex deliveryman Luis Melendez, 49, who's delivered to the block for years, said that while clearing the "unbearable" and "toxic" stench would be nice, he's worried the promised fix would relieve pressure on the city to do something to actually eliminate the puddle.

"It’s taking the focus off the puddle…. The city will say, 'now nobody's complaining,'" he said.

Koplin said he is planning to repeat his treatment regimen once the puddle and its stench return.