New York City Audubon Society

Home    Issues     Waste Stream    Waste Stream Issues - Set 1

 
  About NYCAS
  Officers
  Issues
  Activities
  Birding Sites
  NYC Birds
  Gallery
  Membership
  Volunteers
  Contact Us

Issues

Water Stream Issues - Set 1 [ Set 2 | Set 3 ]
  Reservoirs
  Waste Water
  Air
  Airport Air Quality

  Reservoirs
The Clean Water act has made it possible to control the contaminants in the water we drink and significantly reduce pollution in the waterways that surround our city. Although NYCAS generally addresses conservation and environmental issues within the five boroughs of New York City, our reservoir system is, essentially, an integral part of the city. We are fortunate to have a reservoir system that provides clean water despite sewage treatment plants discharging their effluents into its watershed. The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the city agency responsible for managing our water supply, is engaged in projects and programs to reduce polluting runoff and sewage effluents in our reservoir system. Development projects on private property within the watersheds pose a continuing threat to the water quality of our reservoirs.
  

Fly Up

 
  Waste Water
At the other end of our water supply system is the equally important wastewater treatment and transport system that handles sanitary sewage and stormwater runoff. Here, again, the DEP is the city agency responsible for the operation of the whole waste water system. The two outstanding wastewater issues are the Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) system and sewage sludge processing for beneficial use program. Many sewer mains in this city handle both stormwater and sanitary sewage as they are carried to sewage treatment plants officially called Water Pollution Control Plants (WPCPs). During heavy rainfalls, the WPCPs receive more of this combined sewage than they are designed to handle, requiring the excess load to be discharged untreated into our waterways. The resulting pollution causes the closing of affected beaches during the summer. This problem is being addressed by the construction of large underground storage tanks that will retain excess wastewater during heavy rain events, reducing the discharge of raw sewage into our waterways. The sewage stored in these CSO Abatement tanks will then be pumped through the WPCPs for proper treatment before being discharged into our rivers and bays.

The sludge that remains after sewage has been treated was, before the Ocean Dumping Ban, carried by ships and barges out to designated ocean sites and dumped. Now, the Beneficial Use Program requires that sludge be de-watered and used as a soil conditioner for agriculture and landscaping. After the DEP managed to significantly reduce the heavy metal content of the sludge through the Industrial Pre-treatment Program, there remain some concerns about microbial residue and the trace of heavy metals still present. An unanticipated effect of the sludge de-watering process, is the high level of biologically active nitrogen in the centrate (water removed from the sludge) that was sent back through the WPCP before being discharged. The higher nitrogen loading of the WPCP effluent can cause algal blooms during the summer which, in the process of decaying, can deplete the oxygen in stratified bottom water of bays. Fish entering oxygen- depleted water are often killed in great numbers. The DEP is addressing the problem of excess nitrogen through adjustments in the sludge load of some de-watering facilities and the development of a biological nitrogen reduction process. In this process, bacteria are used to convert biologically active nitrogen (ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite) to the elemental form of nitrogen that makes up a large part of our atmosphere and does not contribute to algal blooms.
 

Fly Up

 
  Air
Trucks, buses and automobiles still discharge unacceptable quantities of particulate matter into the air we breathe. The effectiveness of our environmental regulations is undermined by special interest exceptions and insufficient resources committed to enforcement. Although electric power generating plants have made enormous strides in reducing particle emissions, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide are still contributing to smog. But not all of our air pollution is generated locally. Weather systems can carry sulfur and nitrogen compounds from coal-fired power plants in Ohio and Tennessee and contribute to smog and acid rain in the mid-Atlantic and New England states.
 

Fly Up

 
  Airport Air Quality
Our airports are not held to the same standards as automobiles and industrial sources of air pollution. Emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) have been steadily rising with the increase in air traffic while other sources of these pollutants have been relatively stable. The Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) which requires industries to reveal the nature and quantity of their emissions does not apply to airports. Among the smog-generating VOCs emitted by jet engines are benzene, formaldehyde and 1,3 butadiene. Prior to September 11th, 2001, there were long delays at Laguardia, Kennedy and Newark airports which caused lines of planes to idle for up to 1-1/2 hours before takeoff. Idling and taxing planes emit 10 times the pollutants as a plane in flight. These pollutants are concentrated in the airport environment and the adjacent communities.

 


Fly To Top

About NYCAS  |  Officers  |  Issues  |  Activities  |  Birding Sites  |  NYC Birds  |  Gallery  |  Membership  |  Volunteers  |  Contact Us

 � Copyright 2002 New York City Audubon Society, Inc. All Rights Reserved.