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Posts Tagged ‘sewers’

In some parts of the country, sewers are single – home and business waste is piped to sewage treatment centers and storm water (from rain or snow) is separately sent to the nearest body of water (POTW stands for Publicly Owned Treatment Works, where waste water is treated):

But not in New York City! New York has a combined sewer system, which works more like this:

As you can see, when it rains, the storm water overflows and the mixed storm water and sewage flow untreated into local rivers. EWWW!!!!!! This is called a Combined Sewage Outflow or CSO and it is major contributor to the pollution of local water.

Where does this happen in NYC? Red Tier 1 dots are where the worst CSOs happen.

Click on the map for much more information

And this is not confined to New York City. Large parts of the country have combined sewer systems, leading to the risk of CSOs:

Now that we see the problem – what is the solution? One answer is better infrastructure, including things like green roofs. The idea is that the right blend of soil and plants absorbs rainwater and then gradually releases it into the storm drains, preventing the overflow. Again, the EPA has lots of information on green infrastructure if you want to learn more.

Why are we talking about this now? Well, first of all it’s information that most New Yorkers (children and adults) do not know, and learning new things is cool. But also, we will be talking more on this blog about green infrastructure in the future and we wanted to explain the problem before considering possible solutions.

… and don’t forget to check out Icky Fest at Brooklyn Children’s Museum this Saturday for more icky information about NYC’s sewers.

(Thanks to the EPA for diagrams 1, 2, and 4. For more information about sewer problems across the United States, check out the EPA’s webpage on CSO’s.)

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Icky Fest is an annual tradition here at Brooklyn Children’s Museum. Every year since our re-opening in 2008, we hosted a weekend devoted to all things gross! During the weekend festival, kids become grossologists—scientific experts on all things slimy, yucky, and downright disgusting. They can create their very own snotty slime, touch creepy creatures, smell pungent cheese, study the New York City sewers, and more!

What’s the sustainability angle? This year, we are welcoming the “Sewer in a Suitcase” team from the Center for Urban Pedagogy. Their suitcase contains a model of a New York City block. Add water and pollution and you can see the major problem with NYC’s water system… (more about that later this week or see our earlier post on the High Line)

Come to Brooklyn Children’s Museum on Saturday, November 19th to check it out. CUP will be doing demonstrations at 12pm, 1pm, and 2pm in the Commons Theater. ICKY!

Tomorrow: America Recycles Day!

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