Monday, June 10, 2013

"It Only Takes 1/10th Of An Inch Of Rain": Flyer Spotted On Smith Street Warns Of CSO Events

I spotted the flyer above, taped to a pay phone on Smith Street, last Friday. It seemed appropriate since Tropical Storm Andrea was dumping upwards of four inches of rain on the Metropolitan area that day, and breaking previous rainfall records all along the Northeast.
No doubt, the heavy rains flooded quite a few basements in the area, especially in Gowanus,

And today, it's raining heavily once again.

No group or individual took credit for the flyer and it was the only one I spotted on Smith Street.

Its message, however, is relevant and important for this area. As many of you know, New York City has an antiquated combined sewer system, which means that rain run-off from streets and roofs get collected in the same pipes with domestic sewage, and industrial wastewater, which lead to a waste water treatment facility.

The Red Hook and Owls Head Wasterwater Treatment Plants are responsible for our area. However, when the facilities exceed their capacity because of flash floods or heavy rainfall, the excess waste water is discharged into the Gowanus Canal.

There are currently 10 active Combined Sewer Overflows (CSO) and three storm water outfalls that dump directly into the canal.
The largest and most significant outflow is RH-034, which is located at the head of the canal. RH-034 contributes an annual discharge of roughly 121 million gallons.
(Who can forget the 2010 video of the CSO event at RH-034 )
The CSOs aren't just an embarrassment to New York City, they represent a significant risk to human health and to wildlife.

Though the City is currently working on upgrading the Gowanus Canal Flushing Tunnel and Waste Water Pumping Station, the upgrades will only reduce Combined Sewer Overflows into the canal by approximately 34%.

The Environmental Protection Agency has declared the 1.8 mile man-made canal a Superfund Site. The Agency has proposed a comprehensive cleanup plan to address the many decade’s worth of toxic sludge at the bottom at the canal as well as the ongoing pollution from upland sites adjacent to the waterway. In order to ensure continued protection of the canal once it has been remediated, the EPA has determined that future permanent CSO sediment controls are required. The agency has roposed in-line retention tanks be constructed near outfalls RH-034 and OH-007, the two largest contributors of CSOs and solids into the Gowanus.
These retention basins would go a long way towards finding a real solution to the CSO problem.

Mayor Bloomberg and NYC's Department of Environmental Protection Agency's Commissioner Carter Strickland have poo-pooed the idea so far.

What can we do as citizens besides advocating for 100% cessation of CSOs into the Gowanus Canal?
On a rainy day like today or last Friday, don't contribute more waste water to an already overloaded system. Wait till after the rains to run your washing machine or your dishwater. That would already help a tiny bit.

The result of a CSO event on the Gowanus Canal


A visual of CSO sludge accumulation from Outflow RH-034 at the head of the Gowanus Canal, clearly visible during dry weather during a low tide
Gowanus Canal CSO Outflow Locations.
(EPA Map)


Carol Bond said...

The canal looks GORGEOUS compared to how it's been the last few days at Union St... which is a hideous milky greenish-grey, stagnant except for sewage runoff and a gentle tide... Really, it's fucking horrible, some of the worst I remember in twenty years! Not sure what the hell is or isn't going on with the flushing tunnel now but... it's a

Anonymous said...

not only is this sign defacing private property.. it eventually will fall off and just contribute to the problem it states it wants to prevent.