City: Sewer pipe sensors will give real-time data on Gowanus Canal stink

The city says it will finally figure out just how much noxious-smelling sewage is pouring into the Gowanus Canal.

The Department of Environmental Protection will install sensors inside two large pipes along the polluted waterway that will help wastewater experts keep tabs on the quantity of household sewage and stormwater that drain into inlet during heavy storms, when the area’s aging sewers flood beyond their capacity.

“We need better data so that we can accurately measure when sewer overflows happen in real time,” said the agency’s Commissioner Carter Strickland. “These new sensors should give us that critical information so that we can better quantify the environmental impact and inform the public as soon as they happen.”

Strickland hopes that one day the sensors will give Gowanus residents real-time data about sewer overflows in what The Brooklyn Paper has dubbed the borough’s “Pungent Sound.”

But neighbors say the high-tech devices — part of a $450,000 study of water quality in the city’s sewers and harbors — will only remind them of something they know all too well: that the Gowanus stinks worse than usual whenever it rains.

“Nothing will change,” said Bill Appel, the executive director of the Gowanus Canal Community Development Corporation. “The only way to prevent [pollution in the Gowanus] is to create a modern sewer system — and that’s not going to happen.”

Roughly 45 million gallons of household sewage drain into the 1.8-mile canal each year, based on city estimates.

The Bloomberg administration is required by federal law to spend $180 million to upgrade nearby sewers to reduce the ghastly effluvium by a projected 34 percent, but is under no obligation to spend more money on a much costlier citywide fix — even though Washington environmental honchos say their $300–$500 million Superfund cleanup will be a waste if the Bloomberg administration continues to allow raw sewage to flood the waterway.

The sewage sensors are scheduled to be installed by the end of the year.

Reach reporter Daniel Bush at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-8310. Follow him at twitter.com/dan_bush.