MANHATTAN — City and state environmental agencies have reached a tentative agreement on reducing sewer overflow into New York City waterways — a problem that leads to massive releases of untreated sewage during heavy rain.
Under the draft agreement between the city's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the city will invest an estimated $187 million in green infrastructure projects by 2015, as part of a planned $2.4 billion public and private investment over the next 20 years.
The infrastructure will be designed to capture and hold storm water run-off before it enters the sewer system — cutting down on sewer overflow during heavy squalls, which is discharged into New York Harbor.
“The draft agreement we reached with DEP proposes an adaptive, integrated and green approach to improve the water quality in the New York City area through both green and gray infrastructure projects,” said DEC Commissioner Joe Martens in a statement.
“DEP’s proposal to integrate green infrastructure in the city landscape to manage storm water and reduce combined sewer overflows in New York Harbor could serve as a model for other communities."
The infrastructure that has been used in the city's previous stormwater control plans includes porous pavement, which allows rainwater to seep into the ground; rain barrels; and green roofs, which use vegetation or mechanical devices to slow roof water from draining too quickly.
Under the agreement, by 2030 the DEP must reduce the amount of storm water entering 10 percent of the city's arcane sewer system, which collects both rain water and sewage.
When it rains as little as half an inch, raw sewage can be discharged into the water. The system can dump up to 30 billion gallons of untreated effluent per year.
The DEC is holding a public hearing for the public to weigh in on the agreement on Nov. 9 at 6 p.m. at the Region 2 Annex Building, at 11-15 47th Ave. in Long Island City.
“We are confident we can forge a consensus on smart, cost-effective investments that clean up our waterways while greening our neighborhoods and improving health and quality of life for all New Yorkers. In other words, we can jointly make New York’s budding green infrastructure program into the largest and most effective one in the nation!" said Natural Resource Defense Council water expert Larry Levine in a statement. “After all, who doesn’t want a cleaner, greener New York City?”