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Architect Plans Swimming Pool Filled With Water Diverted from Newtown Creek

By Meredith Hoffman | August 2, 2013 6:45am
 The pool would be on the corner of Morgan Avenue and Meadow Street.
Newtown Creek Pool
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EAST WILLIAMSBURG — It's one way of escaping the summer heat — taking a dip in sewage diverted from one of America's most contaminated waterways.

An architect has designed a swimming pool using water that would otherwise become sewage that overflows into the famously filthy Newtown Creek, a Superfund site whose contamination level is among the highest in the country.

The "Exorcise Pool" would convert a vacant East Williamsburg lot next to the creek into a clean swimming center by capturing and treating stormwater instead of letting it flow into sewers to mix with waste, as it does now.

"When it rains there's water from roofs and the street also going into the sewer main and, when it's inundated, it overflows...basically putting human waste into the waterway," said architect Rahul Y. Shah, whose new model would "re-route" the precipitation.

The pool would not "reverse" the overwhelming pollution created by decades of oil spills and sewage overflows, said Shah, a Bushwick resident.

But it could stop future overflows, which have become an increasing concern after Hurricane Sandy and mounting climate fluctuations. Newtown Creek came within inches of receiving a massive deluge during October's hurricane, for instance.

"Treating the runoff water from natural precipitation would not add to the pollution entering the waterway, removing this neighborhood from the complex equation of pollution," said Shah, who just completed his masters in architecture at Parsons at the New School and designed the pool, which was first featured by the website Co.Exist, for his thesis.

Currently the pool is only theoretical, said Shah, but he designed it to make the most practical sense.

"Locating the pool adjacent to the creek is a result of the fact that the site is at the lowest point of the neighborhood," he said of the natural flow of storm water.

"[The project] would be digging up 15 feet of sidewalk and, because that area’s industrial, it seems like a viable solution."