Every time there is heavy rainfall here in the city it comes rushing into our sewers in such volumes that our wastewater treatment plants just can't take it, so they let a whole lotta sewage into our waterways—something we were all reminded of when the North River Wastewater Treatment Plant in Harlem caught on fire this summer. But it doesn't have to be that way, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection have come to an interesting agreement to try and slow the brown tide.
If the agreement, the public comment period for which begins now, is accepted it will mean the construction of an estimated $2.4 billion in green infrastructure being built around the city in the next 20 years. The main goal of the agreement is to catch rainwater before it goes into the sewer system. Think: green roofs with plantings to catch water, porous pavement for parking lots and things like that. The city plans to spend $1.5 billion of its own cash (over the next 20 years) on the project with an additional $900 million coming from private investments (i.e. new developments will have limits on the amount of runoff they can produce).
The city estimates that all together the proposals could reduce the amount of sewage going into the harbor by 40 percent by 2030. Up to 30 billion gallons of overflow enters New York Harbor, Jamaica Bay, Newtown Creek and other waterways each year.