Clean at last! Newtown Creek sewage plant finally meets federal standards

Clean at last! Newtown Creek sewage plant finally meets federal standards
Photo by Aaron Short

It took only four decades, but the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant is finally meeting federal clean water standards.

City officials announced the milestone on Tuesday, praising their own $5-billion, 15-year upgrade of the Greenpoint facility, which now processes 1.5 million gallons of sludge every day.

“We’ve had an unprecedented level of investment [that now makes] the city’s water the cleanest it’s been in more than a century,” said Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Cas Holloway.

Community Board 1 member Ryan Kuonen said the upgrade was a “great sign,” crediting affable plant manager Jimmy Pynn for doing an “amazing job” running the plant during its renovation.

“You couldn’t ask for a better person running that plant,” said Kuonen. “We’re moving into an era that the city cares about things like water standards and it’s reflective in the fact that we’re finally meeting it.”

But the work has not always gone down smoothly.

North Greenpoint’s residents have complained for decades about odd sounds and unusual smells wafting from the plant’s digesters.

And there’s one problem that not even a state-of-the-art sewage treatment plant can fix: the city’s antiquated sewer system continues to dump millions of gallons of untreated wastewater into area rivers during heavy rainfalls.

Still, the sewage plant’s silvery, onion-shaped digesters remove more than 85 percent of pollutants from 240 million gallons of water each day — 18 percent of the city’s wastewater — before it is discharged into Newtown Creek.

The plant was built in 1967, but its expansion began in 1998 as the city’s population boomed.