A Plan to Keep Waste Out of the Water
December 18th, 2008

To keep sewage and polluted stormwater from spewing into the waterways around the city, the Bloomberg Administration this week unveiled its Sustainable Stormwater Management Plan.

During storms, the city’s combined sewage and stormwater system becomes overwhelmed, and instead of passing through a treatment system, this filthy wastewater simply gets dumped into the harbor. But now, as part of PlaNYC 2030, the city has committed a plan to paper to keep stormwater out of the system in the first place.

One of the goals is to capture over a billion additional gallons of stormwater a year by the end of 2010. (That’s a baby step toward eliminating the more than 27 billion gallons of untreated wastewater currently dumped in New York Harbor every year.)

To reach that number, the city has begun pilot programs of various means of capturing stormwater throughout the city. With 20 such pilots, the city is experimenting with such “source controls” as blue roofs (which capture stormwater and release it slowly), porous pavement, and artificial wetlands.

Another of the goals reiterated throughout the report is to open 90 percent of the city’s tributaries for recreational use. But some have criticized the mayor for not elaborating on what “recreational” means (does it mean people would be able to swim in it, for example). This report does little to clarify that.

The city has already begun a number of programs that will help capture stormwater, including the administration’s million tree program and new design guidelines for yards and parking lots.

Some of the more immediate initiatives, planned to be implemented by 2009, include the creation of new guidelines for stormwater management for public projects, updated sewer regulations, and standards for stormwater retention for new developments.

Early next year the city will require reporting of how much sewage overflow is being captured, how many Bluebelt acres of natural drainage corridors – such as streams, ponds, and other wetland areas – have been acquired, and where the city’s water is or isn’t meeting standards of cleanliness. All of this, and more, will be available to the public.

Within the next couple years, the city will also create maps of permeable and impermeable surfaces throughout the city.

To pay for all of this, the plan calls for new funds to be committed from the city’s general fund, private grants and donations, federal assistance, and a redirection of funds planned for giant, expensive retention tanks that could be avoided through this plan.

Additionally, it calls for the Water Board to raise rates and impose additional stormwater charges. Furthermore, it notes the need for a reassessment of water and sewer charges. The city is currently engaged in a year-long study to detangle stormwater and wastewater charges from water consumption charges.

By on December 18, 2008, 6:17 pm
In category: Environment | 1 Comment »

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One Response to “A Plan to Keep Waste Out of the Water”

  1. Mary, the Librarian Says:
    December 26th, 2008 at 6:31 pm

    This does not show a commitment by the city to do something about the sewerage issue. They are avoiding “expensive retention tanks” by planting more trees (how many of those are replacements, by the way?) and using other minimalist methods that will only maybe take care of 1 billion gallons out of 27 billion gallons of excrement going into the Harbor. That really is not good enough. I guess it will take the towns of Long Island and New Jersey banding together to sue NYC before something is really done. That is what it took to get Minneapolis and St. Paul to stop dumping raw sewage into the Mississippi–the towns downstream said they wouldn’t take it anymore.

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