New York City owns the Newtown Creek Sewage Treatment Facility which is operated by the Department of Environmental Protection under the administration of the Bureau of Water and Sewer Operations.
The Newtown Creek Sewage Treatment Facility was constructed between 1965 and 1979 on land that previously hosted a massive Standard Oil refinery complex. It is the largest sewage treatment facility in the city, serving approximately 1 million people with a treatment capacity of over 300 million gallons a day. If live you on the East Side of Manhattan below central park, in Northern Brooklyn, or parts of Western Queens, chances are your waste ends up here.
The Newtown Creek Sewage Treatment Facility is currently undergoing a major expansion and upgrade intended to increase its capacity by 50% and extend secondary treatment to all its inflow. In August 2003, a joint venture of Slattery Skanska, Picone/McCullagh JV, and Perini Corporation began work on the upgrade. This contract, valued at $493 million, is one of many awarded as part of a massive retrofitting program, estimated to cost over $2.4 billion when completed. The upgrade also included funds for the now completed Newtown Creek Nature Walk and a promised education center.
Once construction is completed in 2013, Newtown Creek will be the last of the city's treatment facilities to comply with the federal Clean Water Act (passed in 1972!) requiring secondary treatment to remove 85% of all pollutants from incoming sewage. Unfortunately, the 2013 deadline for completion of the Newtown Creek Sewage Treatment Facility neither marks the last time raw sewage will be dumped into New York Harbor nor the beginning of compliance with the Clean Water Act. In 1992 the State of New York ordered the city to plan, design, and construct facilities to eliminate all contraventions of applicable water quality standards caused by sewage overflows and required the city to fund a $250,000 environmental benefit project. To date neither has been completed and the city continues to drag its feet requesting that the deadline for completion be moved back to 2022!
Combined Sewer Overflows Every day nine million New Yorkers discharge 1.5 billion gallons of liquid waste into a sewer system of unimaginable complexity. Underground and out of sight our urine, feces, and food scraps combine with litter and pollution from the streets and toxic waste dumped by regulated city businesses. This nasty brew then navigates the 6,000 miles of pipes, 135,000 catch basins, and 93 pumping stations of the wastewater treatment network towards two possible futures: decontamination at one of 14 treatment plants or discharge into New York Harbor via one of 494 combined sewer overflow outfalls. [Map of New York City CSO outfalls, pdf 2.5 mb]
When sewage loads exceed the capacity of the Newtown Creek Sewage Treatment Facility trash, pesticides, petroleum products, PCBs, mercury, cadmium, lead, pathogenic microorganisms, and nutrients which reduce the dissolved oxygen content of the water are dumped into Newtown Creek. This dumping is referred to as a combined sewer overflow or CSO. CSOs can be triggered by as little as a tenth of an inch of rain.
Essentially anything that gets washed into the gutters from the street, anything that households and businesses flush down the toilet or dump down the drain, has a fair chance of being expelled directly into Newtown Creek or New York Harbor untreated. In New York City a CSO event occurs once a week on average, discharging approximately 500 million gallons of raw sewage directly into New York Harbor. CSOs are the single largest impairment to the quality of New York City's waters.
Biogas National Grid and the NYC Dept of Environmental Protection are working together to capture and refine the methane gas produced during anaerobic digestion so that it may be injected into the local natural gas distribution network to provide heat and hot water for NYC homes and businesses. The project will produce enough biogas to meet the needs of approximately 2,500 homes. As of July 2010, the project is in the design phase and final implementation is subject to regulatory approval. Links NYC Department of Environmental Protection: DEP provides an excellent overview of New York City's waste water treatment network. They also put together this interactive map detailing New York's 14 sewage treatment facilities Riverkeeper: Riverkeeper is leading a regional campaign to improve the sewage system and halt CSOs. Air Pollution, 2002 National Emissions Inventory (pounds) The Newtown Creek Sewage treatment facility is one of Brooklyn's biggest air polluters.