When the tornado hit Brooklyn the other week, it not only knocked over trees and damaged property. It also sent a wave of raw sewage cascading into the Gowanus. (WARNING: This video is kind of gross.):
This happens all over the city every time it rains. The reason is because our sewer system, like our subway, is decades and in some places centuries old. The city still operates a combined-sewer-overflow system. All that wastewater is not only odoriferous but also screws up the marine chemistry. The EPA is none too happy about it.
Fortunately for our noses and the fishes, the Bloomberg administration announced a plan yesterday to address this problem, called NYC Green Infrastructure. It includes the expansion of the city’s traditional “grey” water systems of tunnels and cisterns as well as a new emphasis on green roofs, absorbent pavement and a dozen other fixes. The measures are expected to reduce sewage outflows up to 40 percent by 2030 and save the city $2.4 billion in sanitation costs between now and then. It’s yet another piece of PlaNYC sustainability coming to fruition.
And yet what goes unsaid in that 40 percent figure is that 60 percent of our waste will still be creeping into the creeks whenever it rains too hard. Granted it would take an astronomical expenditure to completely fix this problem. But like a dainty lady in polite company, it’s better not to discuss such things.