Waterborne diseases

I am still irritated by the one sided New York Times article on people who think “raw water” is better than treated water. I wrote previously about the various microorganisms and chemicals that can be found naturally in groundwater, but I wanted to expand a bit on water borne diseases and why we treat water. Not all water borne diseases are a result of microorganisms.

High nitrates in water can lead to blue-baby syndrome, more properly known as infant methemoglobinemia. Nitrates is associated with human-related water contamination, especially agriculture.

Arsenic occurs naturally in many groundwater sources. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has mapped arsenic in groundwater based on a great deal of sampling. Arsenic in groundwater is particularly problematic in southeast Asia. Arsenic can cause cancer, cardiovascular disease, and skin lesions, among other issues.

Other naturally occurring metals and radioactive elements can be found in groundwater that can cause long term health problems. Groundwater and surface can also become contaminated from human activities with volatile organic compounds, pesticides, and other chemicals that you don’t generally want to ingest.

Then there are all the illnesses caused by microorganisms in water. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the most common waterborne disease outbreak for 2013-2014 was Legionella, which I admit surprised me. Legionella causes respiratory illness due to inhalation of it, which is why it is normally associated with people inhaling the mist of cooling towers and air conditioning systems. [This is how it was first discovered and named when members of the American Legion got sick at a convention in Philadelphia hotel with unsterilized water in a cooling system.]

Most waterborne microorganism caused illness cause gastrointestinal illness though. Most people have heard of Giardia lamblia, which can cause diarrhea. There is Shigella which causes diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps. E. coli is another common microorganism that can cause gastrointestinal illness found in both food and water. Cryptosporidium is a nasty microorganism that can cause illness. The reason I call it nasty though is because the parasite is protected by a shell that makes it particularly difficult to kill with disinfectants.

While luckily not a problem in the U.S., cholera, another waterborne disease, has killed many people throughout history. Yemen is currently in the midst of a horrible outbreak that has killed thousands and infected a million people. The cholera outbreak in London in 1854 is considered by most to be when the field of epidemiology started when John Snow, a physician, removed the Broad Street pump handle to show that that pump was the cause of most of the cases.

Point of all this is, be thankful for modern water treatment. There are very few waterborne illnesses in the U.S. It is rather rare for a person to get sick from water that comes from a public water supply, and when they do, most often because something has gone wrong at the water treatment plant. There are other issues of course, such as old water systems with lead in the pipes or solder. The source water can also become contaminated with something that the water treatment plant was not designed to treat. On the whole though, you are much more likely to become ill from untreated water then from treated water.

Raw Water

The New York Times ran an article about people who like to drink “raw water.” Evidently there are people who do not like tap water and like to drink unfiltered, untreated, unsterilized water. According to the article, some people like the taste. Fair enough. Most of the time when people object to the taste of tap water, what they are objecting to is the taste of chlorine or chloramines that are added to kill bacteria that can make you sick. Using a filter at the tap or simply putting the water in a container and letting it sit in the refrigerator overnight will solve the taste issue. One of the parts of this almost completely one-sided article that I find the most telling and amusing is this paragraph.

“He said “real water” should expire after a few months. His does. “It stays most fresh within one lunar cycle of delivery,” he said. “If it sits around too long, it’ll turn green. People don’t even realize that because all their water’s dead, so they never see it turn green.””

Water does not turn green unless there is something growing in it. The person quoted understands that there are microorganisms (algae most likely because it turns green) growing in the water but thinks that is good thing. There is a reason why water purveyors are required to disinfect water. Bacteria and other microorganisms can cause illness. Not all microorganisms call illness, and some can have beneficial effects (i.e. probiotics). Groundwater does normally have less microorganisms than surface water, but it is not sterile. Further, hot springs does not mean sterile. Scientists have been studying the microorganisms in hot springs like the geysers at Yellowstone National Park for years. Those microorganisms are often called extremophiles because they are so different from the “normal” microorganisms we normally find in less extreme settings.

Some people are concerned about the fluoride that is added to water to help dental health, and a person quoted in this articles believes it is a mind-control drug. Fluoride does help dental health, and it is not a mind-control drug. I really don’t even know where to go with the claim that fluoride is a mind-control drug, so I have decided not to address it right now. Also fluoride can be naturally occurring in groundwater.

However, here, I would like to address the issues with not treating or filtering water and all the other contaminants that can be in water, including but not limited to the microorganisms. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets limits on microorganisms, disinfectants, disinfectant byproducts, inorganic, organics, and radionuclides. Bottled water is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), not the EPA, and the regulations and testing requirements are different. Tap water is tested more frequently and has more monitoring requirements.

Just because water comes from the ground does not mean that it is pure or clean. Bacteria naturally grows in groundwater. Groundwater normally has ions including metals in it, and not all of those metals are good for people. The only way to know if it is free of contaminants is to test it. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) studies and samples groundwater and surface water across the United States. I randomly pulled several reports by searching on water quality and groundwater at USGS’s website. This report of sampling from 2014 found heavy metals in almost all groundwater samples, as well as pesticides and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). “Groundwater Quality in the Yuba River and Bear River Watersheds, Sierra Nevada, California” indicates that while the groundwater is mostly clean, a few samples had high concentrations of four elements (arsenic, barium, molybdenum, and strontium), a few samples had high radioactivity, and coliforms were detected in over 20% of wells. This report on groundwater quality in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania shows 52% of the samples exceed the EPA standard for total coliform, 12% of the wells exceeded the Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for arsenic, 67% exceeded the MCL for Radon-222, and a few exceeded the reporting limit for various VOCs.”Groundwater Quality in the Northern Atlantic Coastal Plain Aquifer System, Eastern United States” found fluoride, arsenic, and manganese in high concentrations in some of the samples. [Note this is naturally occurring fluoride.] Radioactive constituents were present at high levels in about 1% of the samples and at moderate levels in about 12%.

This is the reason why water treatment plants are not one size fits all. All water treatment plants have to disinfect the water. They can’t test for all microorganisms, but they test for indicator microorganisms like total coliform to determine how much disinfect is needed. They also have to test for VOCs, radionuclides, and numerous other indicators. They also test for smell and taste. Common processes at water treatment plants include flocculation and filtration to remove dissolved and suspended particles (this includes microorganisms). The source water will dictate what processes are used and the amount of treatment. The point of the treatment is to clean the water, make sure it meets the requirements set by the EPA and whatever respective state the plant is in, and prevent the people from drinking it from getting sick because of the water. The people of the United States can thank water treatment for better health. Drinking “raw water” means returning to the taking chances on acquiring an illness that people of the past were happy to do away with when water treatment plants became standard and laws like the Safe Drinking Water Act were passed. Edited to add: The EPA sets National Primary Drinking Water Regulations (NPDWR), which are legally enforceable primary standards and treatment techniques that apply to public water systems, and clicking on this embedded link will take to you a list of them along with the health problems that can occur if the water contains one of those chemicals or microorganisms above that limit.

Author’s Note: When I originally wrote this, I referred to microorganisms that live in extreme settings as xenophiles. I meant to say extremophiles. I have corrected it, and I apologize for any confusion. This is what happens when I edit my own writing. I think I had xenobiotics in my head. Xenobiotic is term generally used to describe chemicals that are foreign to body or ecosystem. In my field, I often use that term when speaking of a contaminant in the environment that needs to be cleaned up. You might find xenobiotics in raw water.

DSNY Manhattan 1/2/5 Sanitation Garage

A few weeks ago, I got a chance to visit the brand new DSNY Manhattan 1/2/5 Sanitation Garage with Open House New York. The multilevel building houses three different garages, one each for Manhattan districts 1, 2, and 5. Each garage has its own floor, and there is a shared area for vehicle repairs. The building has LEED certification and includes many green features including a wonderful green roof also. Across the street is a salt shed built to resemble salt crystals. Both the garage and salt shed have really nice, innovative architecture.

DSNY Manhattan 1/2/5 Garage on left, salt shed on right, with Holland Tunnel ventilation tower in back

Salt shed

View of garage from salt shed, all floors of garage are different colors to emphasize different garages and functions

Slats in gate turned to spell DSNY

View from office area looking south, metal fins help let daylight in but keep building cool. The Statue of Liberty can barely be seen on the far right in far background.

View from garage office area of Hudson River and Holland Tunnel ventilation tower

Garage area

Shovel and broom storage (there must be a story for the front broom with the metallic confetti)

Ventilation and other mechanical structures in the repair area

Parking in the garage area

Mechanical penthouse

Green roof with Hudson River in background

Green roof

View from green roof of salt shed

Salt shed packed high with salt

Treasure in the Trash

Last week, I finally got the chance to tour Treasure in the Trash, a collection I had heard about a few years back and was obsessed with touring ever since. Treasure in the Trash is a collection of items that former Department of Sanitation of New York worker Nelson Molina found in the trash as he worked his route picking up trash. Only a very small percentage of items in the collection were found by someone else. Also, Mr. Molina worked in the same garage, the M11, during his career, so almost all the items are from the same area in east Manhattan. The collection is housed on the second floor of the M11 garage, which for structural reasons can no longer be used for vehicles (vehicles on only park on the first floor now), so the collection has expanded in the void.

Framed posters and art

Framed posters and art

Glass, metal, rocking horses, etc.

Glass, metal, rocking horses, etc.

Once trash is put on the curb, it is property of the city. Mr. Molina picked items out of the trash, but as the items were kept in the garage, he never kept them, so he never violated any rules. He would have had to have stopped his habit of picking items out of the trash if it had ever slowed him down on his route. However he clearly is fast in his work, and he is also seriously skilled at knowing which bags might contain items of interest for the collection. He was present during our tour, and he told us that his picking habit started when he was a child, and it clearly is a skill. While it would be easy to find the larger items to pick, we were all amazed at how he found some of the small items that were in bags.

Nelson Molina created and curates the collection

Nelson Molina created and curates the collection

Mr. Molina not only created the collection, but he curates it. The items were all arranged in collections of sorts. He retired from DSNY, but he still comes by the garage often to curate the collection. The collections are well done and arranged. I also enjoyed how he prominently displayed a poster for Open House New York, which arranged the tour, and a poster from the City of New York telling people to “Recycle More, Waste Less!”

Lots and lots of posters, including one for Open House New York, which arranged the tour

Lots and lots of posters, including one for Open House New York, which arranged the tour

The collection is amazing in its diversity, but it is really a statement about what we as a society throw away. So many things we buy now are “disposable” with the resources used to make them then just put into the trash when no longer desirable or useful. However with so many items, there are still resources that could be saved from the discarded item, if the item was discarded correctly. However in most places, it is difficult to discard of an item in a way that the resources could be retrieved from them. For example, metal recycling exists, but it is not always easy to get an item to a metal recycler. If you can though, you can actually make money from getting the metal to a recycler, like I did when I was renovating my house. [Side note: I don’t know the precise amount, but a decent amount of New York trash goes to Covanta Waste to Energy incinerators. After the trash is burned, Covanta’s process does capture metals to then send for scrap. However burning metals lowers the efficiency of the incinerator.]

Metal, mainly brass, collection

Metal, mainly brass, collection

Metal collectibles

Metal collectibles

Collectible metal home accessories, some of which look rather valuable

Collectible metal home accessories, some of which look rather valuable

Some of the metal in the collection though, like many other items in the collection, look like something, that someone else would eagerly buy. Some of the jewelry, china, and glass looked if not really valuable, good enough that someone would happily buy at a thrift store or on eBay.

White china collection, how all of it is unbroken was amazing to me

White china collection, how all of it is unbroken was amazing to me

Colored glass collection that was amazingly unbroken

Colored glass collection that was amazingly unbroken

Jewelry

Jewelry

A set of old seltzer bottles donated by another sanitation worker

A set of old seltzer bottles donated by another sanitation worker

Seriously, much of the collection features items that are the reason eBay was created and continues to thrive.

All the collectible comic book, movie, etc. action figures are her

All the collectible comic book, movie, etc. action figures are here

Trolls

Trolls

Pez dispensers

Pez dispensers

All types of Furby's

All types of Furby’s

Then there are other collections that feature items that would be right at home in a museum of some type.

The still and motion picture collection

The still and motion picture collection

Old cameras

Old cameras

Old typewriters

Old typewriters

Then there were the items like old televisions, phones, and other electronics, that not only contain valuable resources like rare earth metals but also contain material, including those same rare earth metals, that are hazardous if they get into the environment. With most modern technology hardware, retrieving those valuable resources is difficult because of the way the items are constructed. Further, often the items are sent to developing nations, where people retrieve the valuable material to sell, but they work in ways that is dangerous to their own health.

Old cell phones

Old cell phones

Other items are funny, random, and weird. Some items made me wonder why someone had the item to begin with. Other items made me sad, like a cross stitch that featured what was clearly a bride and groom and said “Yvette and Lance – March 16, 2007.” I am just guessing Yvette and Lance’s marriage did not make it.

This was one of my favorite collection with the fighting preying mantises and wooden "rubber" chicken

This was one of my favorite collection with the fighting praying mantises and wooden “rubber” chicken. On the left is a ThighMaster.

Art including many Mona Lisa's

Art including many Mona Lisa’s

I believe they said someone else found the Moon and saved it for Mr. Molina

I believe they said someone else found the Moon and saved it for Mr. Molina

Then there was this gem that welcomes you as you walk up the stairs to Treasure in the Trash.

Rat behind a fence in a hole in the wall in the stairwell leading to Trash in the Treasure

Rat behind a fence in a hole in the wall in the stairwell leading to Trash in the Treasure

The place was amazing. If you ever get the chance, go tour it. Also, many thanks to Open House New York for arranging the tour, DSNY for letting us in, Nelson Molina for talking about the collection, and Robin Nagle, DSNY’s anthropologist in residence, for her introduction to the collection and whose book “Picking Up” about DSNY is well worth the read.

Freshkills Landfill Turned Park

This past weekend, I got to check an item off my bucket list when I got a tour of Freshkills, the former landfill that is being turned into a park. This is probably not an item on most people’s bucket list, but I have heard so much about the landfill that when I found out New York City Parks Department gives tours, I jumped to sign up. The vast majority of the landfill has been fully capped and vegetated. The mounds are dotted by the landfill gas collection system with gas wells popping up from the high grass at regular intervals. The wildlife has already moved in. There were butterflies flying everywhere in the grass, and birds were everywhere. We also saw a family of deer. The wetlands are lovely and evidently filled with wildlife. Also, the view from the top of the mounds is spectacular. It will be a while before the area will be completely converted to a park and open to the public, but the transformation already is incredible. As an environmental engineer, I am incredibly happy to see it and proud of my profession that did it.

View of the last mound that has not been fully vegetated

View of the last mound that has not been fully vegetated

Amazing views with landfill gas well in foreground

Amazing views with landfill gas well in foreground

Landfill gas well

Landfill gas well

Bad photo of a family of deer

Bad photo of a family of deer

Osprey family

Osprey family

View of Manhattan

View of Manhattan

Landfill gas wells popping up in grass

Landfill gas wells popping up in grass

Wetlands in between mounds

Wetlands in between mounds

Coney Island Creek

I went on a hike along Coney Island Creek with Atlas Obscura and Underwater New York to see its virtual ship graveyard. The tour did not disappoint. There were a multitude of shipwrecks, including the famous yellow submarine. We walked along the shore during high tide. The shore was quite mucky, and I was thankful for my waterproof hiking boots, while trying not to think about what was in that muck. There was lots of algae and seaweed of some type. We spotted a few fishermen and men who appeared to be hunting for oysters or clams or sometime of shellfish (are they called fishermen also?). I have serious doubts the fish are safe to eat on a regular basis, simply based on the history of pollution in that area. I can only hope I am wrong for their sake.

Metal shipwreck

Metal shipwreck

Seaweed and barnacles on piers

Seaweed and barnacles on piers

Inside a metal shipwreck

Inside a metal shipwreck, Coney Island Parachute Jump tower can be seen in left background

Horseshoe crab remains

Horseshoe crab remains

Wooden shipwreck

Wooden shipwreck

Famous yellow submarine

Famous yellow submarine

Metal nails in a wooden shipwreck

Metal nails in a wooden shipwreck

Wooden shipwreck with large modern tanker ship in background

Wooden shipwreck with large modern tanker ship in background

Wooden ship remains

Wooden ship remains

Old pier

Old pier

Metal shipwreck that is now a giant planter

Metal shipwreck that is now a giant planter

It’s Not Rocket Science

I subscribe to my county’s weekly police report just in case there might be crime in my area I want to know about. I don’t live in a high crime area, so normally the police report is a bunch of car break-ins and drunks in the bar area of town. Today though I found this interesting report.

MISSILE INTO AN OCCUPIED DWELLING, [location of incident]. On January 18 at approximately 6:51 p.m., a resident reported a known suspect threw a brick and rock into her residence, shattering two windows. [Suspect name] was arrested and charged with missile into an occupied dwelling, destruction of property, drunk in public and violation of protection order.”

What I found interesting is that legally speaking, a brick and/or a rock is considered a missile. To me this is another reason why rocket science should not be the go to science and engineering field for things that are hard. I hate the phrase “it’s not rocket science” with a passion. Rocket science is not that hard. It involves controlled combustion and trajectory. Missiles, a term which is generally used to mean a rocket that will cause destruction, is quite frankly easy. Science fields that are hard involve things that can’t be controlled near as easy as rockets, like biological systems, like fields trying to predict what stupid humans will do, like basic science where we are still trying to understand all the forces involved. You try doing an environmental and human health risk assessment on a hazardous waste site where toxicologists are unsure what level of exposure to a contaminant is acceptable, where you can’t be completely sure what humans will really be doing and for how long at a site, where people want to know they will be not be subject to undue risk for the next 70 years, and where you can’t be absolutely, completely positive just how much of each contaminant is there, but the polluters don’t want to clean up more than necessary. Then come talk to me about how hard rocket science is.

In summary, as evidenced by this police report, missiles are easy. Rockets are easy. Stop comparing things you think are hard to rocket science.

Man Swims the Gowanus Canal

I was planning to come to New York for the weekend, and by pure chance this was the weekend Christopher Swain announced he was going to attempt to swim the Gowanus Canal again. He tried in April but the threat of rain and then actual lightning, which caused the New York Police Department (NYPD) to order him out of the canal, prevented him from swimming the entire length. This time he was successful. He said he did it to raise awareness of the pollution of the Gowanus Canal. When being interviewed by reporters, he said he was concerned this would be perceived as a stunt. He said they would actually be collecting data that would be given to school kids, so they could help solve the problems affecting the Gowanus.

As an environmentalist, I appreciate him bringing awareness to the plight of the Gowanus. I even appreciate him wanting to bring awareness to school kids. Honestly though, as an environmental engineer, who works in the field of cleaning up hazardous waste sites, I can’t see what he is doing as anything other than a stunt. I seriously can’t think of any information he could gather that couldn’t be gathered from a person in a boat, a person who would not be exposing herself or himself to the risk that Mr. Swain is. At one point, Mr. Swain stopped swimming to collect data and told anyone listening that the water had a temperature of 64ºF and had a pH of 7.5. He started by saying “for the scientists out there” and then said he wished he had studied science harder or something to that effect. First, both those two pieces of data could easily be collected from a boat. Second, neither of those pieces of data tell me anything about the state of the Gowanus. The temperature just reflects that it is fall, and a pH of 7.5 is close to neutral and what is expected for a body of water. [Yes, thermal pollution, where water that is too hot is released into a body of water, is a thing that can affect water bodies because hot water has less oxygen, and the reduced oxygen would affect any wildlife in the water, but it is not a concern for the Gownaus.]

Also, I fail to see what school kids are going to do to help solve the problem. I completely agree in bringing awareness of environmental issues to children, but it is environmental professionals and perhaps community organizers who are going to solve the pollution problem with the Gowanus. The Gowanus has two main issues. First, it has hazardous pollution from years past that needs to be cleaned up. This is where the US EPA and Superfund comes in. Hazardous waste includes PCBs, heavy metals, and whatever other fun chemicals might be polluting the canal. Second, it has wastewater pollution from the past and current that needs to be cleaned up. New York City, like many old cites, has a combined wastewater system. This means that wastewater, the stuff that flows from your toilet and sink drain, and stormwater, the stuff from street drains, flows to the same destination. When it is not raining, it is not an issue. The wastewater all flows to various wastewater treatment plants where it is treated before being released to a river or ocean. During rain events, there can be a problem because the wastewater treatment plant may not be able to handle all the water flowing to it. In this case, untreated wastewater is generally directed to some location (technical term is outfall) where it enters a body of water, like the Gowanus. This is actually the main immediate risk to Mr. Swain. Most of the hazardous pollution is in the sediment at the bottom of the canal, and drinking one mouthful of the Gowanus water probably will not kill you, in terms of the hazardous chemicals, or at least not immediately. [DO NOT TRY THIS. THIS IS AN EDUCATED GUESS.] However, because of the untreated wastewater that flows into the Gowanus, the canal has a lovely concoction of viruses, bacteria, and who knows what other pathogens having their own little party. This would be my more immediate concern for him or anyone else who might accidentally ingest Gowanus Canal water, getting an infection of who knows what pathogen. [According to news reports I’ve seen, after the swim, he stated that he swallowed three mouthfuls. My advice is to go see a medical doctor.] It is also not clear to me if there is other pollution concerns to Gowanus, like outfalls from nearby business or stormwater from the nearby area that may contain things they shouldn’t.

The Gowanus Canal absolutely needs to be cleaned up, and regulatory authorities and the community are already working on it. It may not be proceeding at the speed Mr. Swain and the community would like. I completely understand that. Cleanups, such as the Gowanus Canal, take time and money. It takes professionals, the regulatory authorities, the groups being regulated, and the community to determine the best path forward. Unfortunately, it generally takes patience also. My completely biased opinion is that not enough money is dedicated by politicians to cleaning up all the different pollution in this country. Hence even more patience is needed. One final note, in all the news reports, Mr. Swain and the reporters keep making reference to the Gowanus Canal being a Superfund site. It is, but the issue of untreated wastewater being released into the canal and causing, in my opinion, the more immediate risk to him or anyone else who wants to go for a dip, does not normally fall under Superfund regulation. Superfund (aka CERCLA) regulates hazardous waste, and pathogens are not hazardous waste. However, when the U.S. EPA finalized the Record of Decision for the Gowanus Canal Superfund site, they did require the City to build two very large tunnels to capture combined sewer overflow during rain events. [Edited to correct my statements regarding Superfund and the untreated wastewater contamination.]

Christopher Swain being interviewed before his swim

Christopher Swain being interviewed before his swim

Mr. Swain and his support crew paddled to the start of the Gowanus Canal before he entered the water.

Mr. Swain and his support crew paddled to the start of the Gowanus Canal before he entered the water.

Christopher Swain swimming with his support crew behind him

Christopher Swain swimming with his support crew behind him

Christopher Swain swimming the Gowanus Canal in a dry suit.

Christopher Swain swimming the Gowanus Canal in a dry suit.

He takes measurements of the water.

He takes measurements of the water.

After he reached the 3rd Street bridge, the NYPD provided an escort (either the water wasn't deep enough or the bridges prevented it before).

After he reached the 3rd Street bridge, the NYPD provided an escort (either the water wasn’t deep enough or the bridges prevented it before).

Mr. Swain and escorts nearly at the end of the Gowanus Canal, just after the Gowanus Expressway bridge.

Mr. Swain and escorts nearly at the end of the Gowanus Canal, just after the Gowanus Expressway bridge.

Newtown Creek

Manhattan skyline behind Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant

Manhattan skyline behind Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant

Newtown Creek is a natural creek that now resembles more of an industrial waterway and serves as a divider between Brooklyn and Queens in New York. I recently got a boat tour of it through Open House NY with superb guides from Newtown Creek Alliance and was able to see all the industrial facilities that are on it as well as a few places where its natural state is peaking through. Newtown Creek is heavily polluted because of New York City’s combined sanitary wastewater and stormwater system, which has led to untreated wastewater flowing into the creek during heavy rain events, and also industrial pollution, which has led to it being a Superfund site. A trip down Newtown Creek is almost history lesson down NYC’s past with some historic sites still visible like an old Standard Oil building. More modern parts of NYC also lie on the creek, most famously the newly redesigned and rebuilt Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant and its eight stainless steel digester eggs.

Brooklyn Queens Expressway

Brooklyn Queens Expressway

cement plant

cement plant

DEP boat

DEP boat

Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant and DEP offices

Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant and DEP offices

Fuel tanks and barge

Fuel tanks and barge

LPG (or possibly methane) tanks

LPG (or possibly methane) tanks

mud flats

mud flats

Recycling facility

Recycling facility

Sailboats at entrance to Newtown Creek

Sailboats at entrance to Newtown Creek

old Standard Oil facility

old Standard Oil facility

swing bridge

swing bridge

Tanks

Tanks

Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant

Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant

Sewage outfall with birds on boom line

Sewage outfall with birds on boom line

Marine Waste Transfer Station

I got the chance to tour New York City’s brand new Hamilton Avenue Marine Transfer Station. It is scheduled to open next year and is located on the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn. It will be the transfer point for household waste from ten Brooklyn community boards. It is the first marine transfer station there. All other waste is moved on trucks and rail. It is very impressive. Once operational, it will operate 24 hours a day and six days a week (no Sundays). Currently waste from the area goes to waste to energy incinerators. There will be 12 sanitation workers per shift plus one supervisor.

Trucks enter the building and are first weighed on a scale.

Scale where trucks get weighed when entering station

Scale where trucks get weighed when entering station

Once inside the building, the trucks back up to the edge of the floor and lower their trash onto the mixing floor below.

Area where trucks enter and then deposit waste onto mixing floor (right side)

Area where trucks enter and then deposit waste onto mixing floor (right side)

Front loaders and other equipment on the floor below are used to push the waste through openings in the floor into containers waiting below the mixing floor.

Waste mixing floor with equipment to push waste into containers

Waste mixing floor with equipment to push waste into containers, the elevated floor on the left is where the trucks will lower their loads

The openings in the mixing floor are only as big as the standard containers that will accept the waste. The station aims to put 20 tons of waste in each container.

Looking down from waste mixing floor into hole where waste will be pushed into a waiting container

Looking down from waste mixing floor into hole where waste will be pushed into a waiting container

Once the container is full, equipment is then used to place a top on the waste container.

Row of toppers, equipment used to place top on top of container

Row of toppers, equipment used to place top on top of container

The containers are moved the loading area to the topping area to the storage area on rails.

Loading bay, in foreground are toppers and behind, with yellow frames, are where containers will sit to receive waste

Loading bay, in foreground are toppers and behind, with yellow frames, are where containers will sit to receive waste

Cranes that are also on rails are used to move the containers from the building to stacking areas to finally the barge.

Equipment that is attached to crane to move containers

Equipment that is attached to crane to move containers

There are two cranes, but for safety, only one is used at a time. The other one is a backup during maintenance.

Container crane

Container crane

Base of container crane, on rails

Base of container crane, on rails

Container crane

Container cranes with station building to the left