The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for January 2nd, 2012

dense curtain

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

The 1.3 billion gallon a day flow of New York City’s sewage really should be defined as a third major river.

That’s 1,300,000,000 gallons a day or 474,500,000,000 gallons of night soil a year.

1.3 billion is approximately the population of China.

Pictured above is the DEP Sludge Vessel M/V Newtown Creek. A veteran, she was was laid down by the Wiley Manufacturing Co. in 1967. Just under 324 foot long, M/V Newtown Creek can carry 102,000 cubic feet of cargo and weighs in at 2,557 gross tons.


The largest vessels, M/V Newtown Creek and M/V North River, are semiautomated motor vessels with more than twice the capacity of the original sludge vessels. The crew size was reduced to eight in 1980 and reduced again in 1987 to the current size of six. In 1987, MPRSA was amended, and ocean dumping was moved from the 12-mi site to a 106-mi site. As a result, the operation of the M/V was changed to in-harbor work transporting sludge to four newly constructed New York City ocean-going barges for disposal to the 106-mi site.

In 1991, to comply with the Ocean Dumping Ban Act (ODBA), the M/V Newtown Creek, North River and Owls Head began transporting sludge from plants without dewatering facilities or other means of conveyance to plants with dewatering facilities for processing. Since barges were no longer needed, three were retired, and one, the Udalls Cove, was kept as part of the fleet for emergencies.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Forty-four and change years is a long time to be working any job, especially one with the city.

M/V Newtown Creek was cruising along the East River one winter’s afternoon, just before sunset, and your humble narrator was similarly crossing the water- only I was upon the Queensboro Bridge’s pedestrian walkway, en route to the Shining City.


Presently, NYC-DEP Marine Section uses these three sludge vessels for the transportation of liquid sludge from wastewater treatment plants without dewatering capabilities.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The DEP people actually refer to these ships as “Honey Boats”, by the way, or at least some of the ones that I’ve interacted with have.

It’s gallows humor, the refined and thickened sludge that these vessels carry does not have the appearance and seeming viscosity of honey, rather it is said to be darkly colored and resemble pea soup.

from wikipedia

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) manages the city’s water supply, providing more than 1.1 billion US gallons (4,200,000 m3) of water each day to more than 9 million residents throughout New York State through a complex network of nineteen reservoirs, three controlled lakes and 6,200 miles (10,000 km) of water pipes, tunnels and aqueducts. The DEP is also responsible for managing the city’s combined sewer system, which carries both storm water runoff and sanitary waste, and fourteen wastewater treatment plants located throughout the city. The DEP carries out federal Clean Water Act rules and regulations, handles hazardous materials emergencies and toxic site remediation, oversees asbestos monitoring and removal, enforces the city’s air and noise codes, bills and collects on city water and sewer accounts, and manages citywide water conservation programs.

Emily Lloyd was the commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection until resigning in 2008. On November 30, 2009, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg appointed Caswell F. Holloway to be the new commissioner of NYCDEP. Following Holloway’s appointment as the new NYC Deputy Mayor for Operations, Mayor Bloomberg appointed Carter H. Strickland, Jr. to be the new commissioner of NYCDEP on August 17, 2011.

Written by Mitch Waxman

January 2, 2012 at 12:15 am

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