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New York State, City Agree To Reduce Sewage Pollution

Submitted by Elizabeth Mooney on Thu, 2012-03-15 09:29.

The adage about an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure is at the heart of a 21st century plan to address stormwater runoff into the New York Harbor waters.

DEP Commissioner Carter Strickland made the  announcement on what will become a green roof at the Brooklyn Navy  Yard.DEP Commissioner Carter Strickland made the announcement on what will become a green roof at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and New York City Department of Environmental Protection have agreed on this plan: The Big Apple will invest $187 million over the next three years and an estimated $2.4 billion of public and private funding over the next 18 years to install green infrastructure technologies to capture and manage stormwater so it doesn't pollute surrounding surface waters.

"Sewage contamination of our waterways is not only a threat to human health, it also compromises the well-being of the entire New York Harbor ecosystem," said NYLCV President Marcia Bystryn. "Today's agreement marks a serious commitment to addressing this issue while also controlling costs."

Like other older cities, New York is largely serviced by a combined sewer system where stormwater and wastewater are carried through a single system. During heavy storms, the system often reaches capacity and must discharge a mix of stormwater and wastewater -- called a combined sewer overflow (CSO) -- into New York waterbodies. If the overflows were not discharged, the city's wastewater treatment plants would be flooded and unable to treat wastewater.

Approximately 1.5 billion gallons of CSO flows will be removed annually by 2030 through the application of green infrastructure. Green infrastructure, like green roofs and porous pavement, improves harbor water quality by capturing and holding stormwater runoff before it enters the sewer system and contributes to CSOs.

In a related development, the Wall Street Journal reported that New York City is developing a plan with the Trust for Public Land, a national not-for-profit group, to build as many as 10 "green" playgrounds. They will be designed to capture the first inch of rain in every storm -- keeping the water from pouring into the city's sewer system and inundating wastewater treatment plants.

The five proposed schoolyards are situated in some of the city's priority watersheds, including Newtown Creek, the Gowanus Canal, Jamaica Bay and Flushing Bay.

DEP Commissioner Carter Strickland said his department had not yet signed an agreement with the Trust for Public Land on the playground project, but is expected to finalize a deal soon. Since 2007, the Trust for Public Land has designed or built 151 playgrounds in New York City schoolyards, under the city's PlaNYC initiative.


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