March 7, 2018 By Nathaly Pesantez
You can help protect the health of Newtown Creek during rain storms by putting off washing dishes, taking shorter showers, and reducing overall water use, the city says.
The Department of Environmental Protection is expanding a pilot program that encourages New Yorkers to voluntarily reduce their water use during rainstorms to help out local waterways.
The program, called “Wait…”, is aimed at residents in areas of North Brooklyn and eastern Queens, targeting neighborhoods that have waterways like the Flushing Creek and Bowery Bay.
The DEP says holding off on water-intensive activities during rainstorms helps create additional capacity in the combined sewer system, which is overwhelmed with water during a storm and cannot send sewage as directly to waste treatment plants.
When the sewer system is overwhelmed, any additional sewer overflow gets routed into waterbodies like the Newtown Creek. But the likelihood of this happening can be reduced if we limit personal water use, according to the DEP.
Those who choose to sign up to the program will get text alerts from the DEP reminding them to wait before doing water-intensive activities. The DEP will use real-time rainfall data measured at the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant to see if a combined sewer overflow event is likely before alerting participants.
The DEP will also monitor each volunteer’s water consumption data through their building’s automated water meter.
The program will run from April 2018 to May 2019, and participants can opt out at any time.
Willis Elkins, the program director at the Newtown Creek Alliance, said in a statement that educating the public about personal impacts of wastewater, especially during rainstorms, is a viable option as the city works to improve sewer infrastructure.
“There is an immediate opportunity for residents to reduce pollution by being aware of when sewage treatment plants hit capacity during rain events and overflow into local waterways, and then taking action to not create additional wastewater during these crucial periods,” Elkins said.
Vincent Sapienza, DEP Commissioner, says the city is investing millions every year to build infrastructure that protects local waterways.
“…[T]he Wait Program engages citizens and allows them to directly contribute to the protection of our environment,” Sapienza said. “New York Harbor is cleaner today than it has been in more than a century and with the help of all New Yorkers we can continue to build on this important progress.”
A 2016 Wait pilot program by the Newtown Creek saw a 5 percent decrease in water use from residents who volunteered in the program, according to the DEP.
The agency said it is working to “green” the city’s urban landscape to allow for stormwater to be absorbed and kept out of the city’s combined sewer system, rather than land on a non-absorbent surface like an asphalt roadway or concrete sidewalk. More than 70 percent of the city is covered with a non-absorbent surface, the DEP says.
The deadline to opt-in to the program is March 30. To sign up, click here.