Saturday, October 20, 2007

Crappy Problems: Gowanus 2007 vs. London 1858

Gowanus Canoeing

That awful storm on August 8 that spawned the Bay Ridge Tornado, also resulted in a whole lot of crap going into the Gowanus Canal and New York Bay. Poop Culture author Dave Praeger sent us an email pointing us toward a blog entry he's just done. Most of it deals with the grotesque, yet fascinating, story of London in the 1850s, which one ought not read before a meal. But it also has great detail about what happened on August 8:

On the morning of August 8, three inches of rain fell on Brooklyn. On the 3,200 Brooklyn acres that drain into the Red Hook Water Pollution Control Plant, 260 million gallons of runoff coursed into the sewers, mixing with millions of gallons of human waste already headed towards a treatment plant capable of processing only 60 million gallons per day.

When flow exceeds capacity by that much, the only choice is to channel it all, untreated, into the waterways. And so emergency outflow points in Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal and across Upper New York Bay began to ejaculate diluted sewage.

But aside from homeowners whose basements were flooded by Gowanus sewage and beachgoers who swam in feces the next day, few people paid attention to the sewer overflows. After all, New York City averages 53 combined sewer overflows (CSOs) a year, and 772 American communities have combined wastewater and rainwater sewers that overflow during heavy rains. But since CSOs rarely make the news and few politicians want to stake political capital on sewers, the political will to fix them probably won’t appear until the problem becomes a catastrophe.

The whole blog entry is worth a read. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

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