DEC Announces Order on Consent with New York City to Upgrade Wastewater Treatment Facilities and Improve Air Quality

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DEC Announces Order on Consent with New York City to Upgrade Wastewater Treatment Facilities and Improve Air Quality

City to Invest Approximately $360 Million to Build New, Cleaner Burning Engines at the North River Wastewater Treatment Plant as well as Upgrades to Bowery Bay Facility and Citywide Pump Stations

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) today announced a final Order on Consent with New York City regarding upgrades to wastewater treatment facilities and the 2011 fire at the North River Wastewater Treatment Plant (WWTP).

Work to be accomplished under the Order will improve performance and reliability at both the North River and Bowery Bay WWTPs, as well as numerous pumping stations. The innovative technology being installed at North River and Bowery Bay will ensure that the plants are consistently capable of capturing and treating twice their design capacity during rain events to reduce the amount of sewer overflows into receiving waters. New York City will also annually submit to DEC its City-wide and comprehensive wastewater "asset management" program, which helps to anticipate needed repairs, treatment upgrades, and maintenance to reduce the potential for breakdowns, and resulting pollution events in the future.

"This Consent Order resolves numerous issues, including the massive North River wastewater treatment plant fire and associated sewage spill into the Hudson River. I am pleased with the City's agreement to institute a system-wide program to better assess sewage treatment infrastructure to eliminate pollution risks before a breakdown - fostering on-going compliance. The end result will be cleaner water and air we all desire," said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos.

The Consent Order requires the City to spend an estimated $360 million to improve various wastewater treatment systems. This work will include electrification of pumps and the ongoing design and installation of cleaner cogeneration engines that can run on utility gas or anaerobic digester gas at the North River WWTP, which will improve reliability and reduce any formaldehyde emissions in the vicinity of Riverbank State Park. At Bowery Bay, the plant influent pump station will be completely upgraded. All work is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.

In addition, New York City will share with DEC its existing Asset Management Plan for all of the WWTPs and its largest combined sewer overflow retention facilities. Asset management plans help municipalities properly inventory, assess and operate their wastewater treatment plants and provide for improved financial planning for these facilities to avoid future permit violations. Properly functioning systems protect public health, save money, and ensure clean water, air and economic competitiveness.

Under the Order, New York City will fund an Environmental Benefit Project that will facilitate the construction and operation of a greenhouse and educational gardening program in Riverbank State Park.

"Time spent outside nourishes our well-being and clean air and water are the core resources of our great outdoors," said State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey. "I commend the DEC for their unflinching commitment in the protection of our magnificent outdoors, its resources and our places in which we recreate."

On July 20, 2011 the North River WWTP was taken offline following a four-alarm fire in the main sewage pump engine room. The use of fuel oil for the main sewage pump engines and blowers at the plants contributed to the intensity, duration and extensive damage caused by the fire. New York City worked quickly to make the necessary repairs and the Plant was brought back online and initially began treating wastewater on July 22. However, the raw or partially treated sewage discharges during this time period led to the closure of several beaches. With the installation of modern cogeneration equipment and electrification of the main sewage pumps, the use of fuel oil to run engines at the plant will be discontinued and several of the existing large fuel oil storage tanks with be demolished.

In addition to the environmental benefit project, the Order requires the City to pay a $150,000 penalty to settle past alleged offenses which resulted from equipment being taken out of service for maintenance at several plants. It is anticipated that submitting the City's asset management plan to DEC will help to improve operation and maintenance protocols, and thereby help to protect the health of local waterways.