Mayor Bloomberg's gonna spoil us! First he gets rid of all the smokers, then he gives us bike paths and waterfront parks, and now he's going to clean the fecal matter out of our harbor. Some of it, anyway. As you may know, during heavy rainfall (or blackouts) untreated sewage and storm water is released into the East River, New York Harbor, Jamaica Bay, the Gowanus Canal (disgusting video!) and Newtown Creek. But the Bloomberg Administration is planning to spend $1.5 billion over the next 20 years to retain that waste. By the time Bloomberg's in his tenth term, sewer overflows could be reduced by 40 percent!
The Mayor's office estimates that the infrastructure investment could ultimately save the city $2.4 billion in sewer management costs, and help lower water bills for ratepayers. The new plan, called NYC Green Infrastructure, "will replace the existing approach for sewer overflow control, which relies solely on traditional investments like holding tanks and tunnels, with a mix of green infrastructure and cost-effective traditional infrastructure that will reduce sewer overflows into waterways." About 30 billion gallons of overflows from the city’s sewer system end up in the waterways each year. From the press release:
Under the plan, first inch of rainfall on 10 percent of the impervious areas in combined sewer areas of the city will be captured and will not enter the sewer system... Examples of green infrastructure projects include: blue roofs and green roofs, which use mechanical devices or vegetation to slow roof water from draining too quickly and overwhelming storm sewers; porous pavement for parking lots that allows water to seep through it and be absorbed into the ground rather than running-off into the sewer system; tree pits and streetside swales for roadways that allow water to pool in underground holding areas until it can dissipate in the ground or transpire through plants; wetlands and swales for parks; and rain barrels in some residential areas.
The city would also require new private residential and commercial development to abide by new standards, including limiting the amount of runoff allowed to emerge from a new property. Paul Gallay at the environmental group Riverkeeper called the mayor’s plan "a good start," telling the Times, "Green infrastructure is great, but there has to be enough of it to achieve water quality standards, and it has to be complemented with the more traditional approaches. It’s a question of the mix." When it comes to sewage, the right mix is so important.