And I said “shit!”

16 10 2017

I happily saw shit on Saturday.

Well, I didn’t see “shit”, per se; instead, I saw what happens to shit at the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. C. had gotten tickets for a tour via OpenHouse New York, one of those nifty freebies available to New Yorkers which I always think I should do! and then forget to do. C did not forget.

The tour started with a lecture by an assistant director at the plant, during which he talked about the process by which water and waste makes it way to the plant, how garbage (whatever happened to fall into sewers) gets removed, what happens when its (BABY WIPES) are not and how non-removed trash (BABY WIPES) gum up the works and makes him very unhappy.

Guys, baby wipes in the toilet are bad. DON’T FLUSH BABY WIPES.

The wastewater is then cycloned and centrifuged and filtered and munched on by aerobic and anaerobic bacteria, biosolids (including food waste) is shunted off for re-use, and the 95%-clean water is piped into the East River. The assistant director (who hates BABY WIPES) pointed out that, not to brag or anything, but the EPA only requires 85%-clean.

Anyway, the lecture was good and informative and he had props of the water at various stages, but, really, we were there for the Digesters Eggs.

These babies:

There are two sets of four, and they sent us up to the top, 10 at a time, in a verrrrrry slow elevator.

The view was lovely:

I thought it might stink, but, really, it didn’t. There were portholes at the top through which you could look at the churning water, but absent a leak around these seals (which, okay, one or two of the eggs had leaky seals), nothin’.

I don’t know what these are, but you can see get a sense of how huge this site is:

This was and is a highly industrialized area of Brooklyn: Newtown Creek itself is hella polluted from over a century of industry, and goddess only knows what’s in the ground. Given that pollution is the ultimate anti-gentrifier, the area hasn’t been overtaken by lofts and hipster bars; instead, there are metal recycling businesses across the street from the plant, and National Grid (gas) has facilities in the area.

In fact, National Grid is in the early stages of building its own facility on the plant to capture, process, and use the methane produced via the Digester Eggs. Sustainability, baby!

The plant does try to capture and reuse the methane for its own power purposes, but their storage is limited; further, the bladder inside a storage facility had collapsed, so it was being flamed-off, here:

It was all very cool, and C and I agreed that it would be great if she (who’s finishing an environmental science degree) got a job here.

I know, most visitors to New York never leave Manhattan, and, honestly, that’s fine! There’s lots to see in Manhattan!

But Manhattan is onstage, and as much as I thought when younger that I wanted an onstage life, I have come to appreciate the gears of backstage. And it really doesn’t get more backstage than waste treatment.

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3 responses

17 10 2017
BJLeRoy

There’s a tour not many people will take. Ah the jokes…

Fascinating tho. Living in a place you’re familiar with, I do consulting work for a plant in another place you’re familiar with (the two cities might be considered very similar looking siblings.) This facility is immense…multiple 40 foot tall tunnels, 50 feet underground, a half mile long, along side multi-million gallon treatment basins. All to process that which we flush. The place is a small city, quite honestly. Incredible.

26 10 2017
absurdbeats

I was hoping the tour would be even more extensive, that we’d get to inspect the process from beginning to end, but the eggs were cool enough.

And yeah, while I’ve never wanted to be an engineer of any kind, I love the practical ingenuity (or ingenious practicality) that goes into any kind of industrial venture.

27 10 2017
dmf

my dad’s a civil engineer as well as an environmental scientist so I grew up learning to admire culverts as well as bees, part of why I enjoy
https://99percentinvisible.org

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