In a world where a person can sit on a moving train holding both a smart phone and a tablet, it's easy to assume that drainage technology has advanced to a place where one can flush a toilet, rain or shine, without sending its contents shooting into an already problematic body of water. Well, assumptions lead to mistakes, don't they—is it pouring outside? Are you flushing your toilet without a care in the world? According to the Newtown Creek Alliance, you're blowing it. Here's how:

When the weather is dry, the plant has capacity to fully treat (to Clean Water Act standards) 310 million gallons per day and during weather, the plant can partially treat up to 700 mgd. When wet weather conditions exceed this capacity, the excess combined sewage and stormwater is released directly to Newtown Creek. This is called Combined Sewer Overflow. CSO damages the Newtown Creek ecosystem, and creates hazardous conditions for people on the water due to the pathogens that come along with untreated sewage. The area that contributes CSO to the creek is the green watershed area above.

"But what does this mean for me?"

Our local government is putting a lot some effort into making Newtown Creek a place where we can once again sail and breathe near without the risk of contracting Giardia. Do your part by not dumping your feces into it during heavy rains! The Alliance will help you navigate these complex, fetid waters in the following ways:

1. Safe to Flush Meter. Because the creek has CSO outfalls from both the Newtown Creek and Bowery Bay sewersheds, we created this simple gauge to let citizens know when their toilet is flushing straight into our waterways. It is shown on the homepage of our website and here:


2. Twitter Alert. Follow us on twitter @newtowncreek. Using the hashtag #CSOalert, tweets are delivered during and after our system is triggered, notifying waterway users of how long it has been since sewage discharge. We also encourage folks to use #CSOalert to tag any photos that document actual CSO activity.

3. Text (SMS) Alert. Users can send a text message to our CSOalert line at 646-576-7448 to see if CSO activity is happening or when the last event was. Text the word ‘status’ for updates; ‘join’ to subscribe for automatic alerts and ‘leave’ to unsubscribe.

Want more? Head over to, where you can watch a mesmerizing video of poisonous runoff lapping gently against the concrete shore of Maspeth Creek.

[h/t Brokelyn]