News Feature | January 22, 2018

Bicycle, Construction Material Among Oddities In New York City Sewers

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga


The latest report to encourage the public’s fascination with what ends up in the nation’s sewers contains some oddities, along with things that knowledgeable wastewater pros would consider standard fare.

“On a recent morning, [Vincent Sapienza, the commissioner of New York’s Department of Environmental Protection,] led a small group on a tour of the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant in Greenpoint,” reported The New York Times in a recent story on the “weird things” that end up in the sewer system.

The plant handles as much as 700 MGD and the non-degradable debris that ends up there seems fairly indicative of the rest of the country’s. It is made up of about 80 percent so-called “flushable” wipes, and another 20 percent of more bizarre items.

As Brooklyn has undergone a construction boom lately, the wastewater treatment plant has seen an affect in the materials it is dealing with.

“[Plant superintendent Zainool Ali] laughed while recalling a long wooden beam that has recently been caught in the grate; a twisted piece of metal, possible once part of a guardrail, lay on the floor nearby,” per the report. “While potentially amusing, these foreign items can cause serious damage to the plant’s infrastructure.”

Since the plant is part of a combined sewer system, one that mixes street runoff with household waste, it is able to capture New York City road contaminants like motor oil. But it also must deal with some more substantial garbage coming in.

“While the design explains most of the weird, larger stuff that ends up against the grate, from time to time the Newtown Creek plant will receive an item that baffles even the most experienced veteran,” per the Times. “The most recent example: a child’s bicycle, fully intact.”

The report did not comment on whether or not the plant had ever seen an alligator come through.

For similar stories visit Water Online’s Wastewater Collection Systems Solutions Center.

Image credit: "paris sewer," Sam Mercer © 2010, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: