The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

Archive for June 20th, 2012

needed adjustments

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent opportunity found your humble narrator standing upon that painted lady of the archipelago named Manhattan, in front of one the Shining City’s newest accoutrements.

Originally built on the Lower East Side in 1965, the Manhattan Pump House acts as the central concentrating point for the waste water and sewage of a significant slice of the borough (basically everything below 79th street) and the point from which it is pumped to the Newtown Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant in Greenpoint from for processing.


Early Manhattan settlers obtained water for domestic purposes from shallow privately-owned wells. In 1677 the first public well was dug in front of the old fort at Bowling Green. In 1776, when the population reached approximately 22,000, a reservoir was constructed on the east side of Broadway between Pearl and White Streets. Water pumped from wells sunk near the Collect Pond, east of the reservoir, and from the pond itself, was distributed through hollow logs laid in the principal streets. In 1800 the Manhattan Company (now The Chase Manhattan Bank, N.A.) sank a well at Reade and Centre Streets, pumped water into reservoir on Chambers Street and distributed it through wooden mains to a portion of the community. In 1830 a tank for fire protection was constructed by the City at 13th Street and Broadway as was filled from a well. The water was distributed through 12-inch cast iron pipes. As the population of the City increased, the well water became polluted and supply was insufficient. The supply was supplemented by cisterns and water drawn from a few springs in upper Manhattan.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is a device which performs a rudimentary process upon the collected liquids, a screening mechanism designed to remove solids from the flow. Remember that what everybody’s friends at the NYC DEP are dealing with is not just that which one might flush down or wash away, but all that might find its way into a roadside sewer grate. Casual littering, when seen from a citywide point of view, creates enormous engineering concerns and generates tons of sewage borne trash.

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.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Surprisingly, turtles often find themselves swept up in the flow, and the workers at this plant have set up a temporary habitat tank for their reptilian charges to recover from the ordeal of their journey here. After regaining their strength, the turtles are offered a new home in the wild, in an “undisclosed location” body of water owned and operated by the City Parks Department.

from wikipedia

The red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) is a semiaquatic turtle belonging to the family Emydidae. It is a subspecies of pond slider. It is the most popular pet turtle in the United States and also popular in the rest of the world. It is native only to the southern United States, but has become established in other places because of pet releases and has become an invasive species in many introduced areas, like California, where it outcompetes the native western pond turtle.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Something which often brings a tinge of warmth to my otherwise calcified and cynical outlook on the world is the way that workmen handle the animals who traverse and inhabit their facilities. These are busy, burly, often brusque men and women that work in dangerous and often unpleasant circumstance who nevertheless show their gentle and kind sides toward the lesser breeds. Whether it be rail yard, factory, or in this case- pump house- these folks always do their best to accommodate and care for strays, injured, or just lost animals.

Laudable, the entire human infestation of New York should take note of such efforts and attempt emulation.


Litter that washes down storm drains in the street can easily wind up in local waters and on City beaches. This unsightly pollution, called floatables, can kill birds, turtles and other marine animals that mistake trash – especially plastic – for food. Street litter that goes to the treatment plants must be separated from the wastewater so it won’t damage plant equipment. Litter can also clog storm drains and cause sewer backups and flooding.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This posting will be a two parter. Tomorrow, we will descend into the very bowels of New York City. Additionally, we will looking into a yawning black maelstrom, which when stared into…

from “Beyond Good and Evil, by Friedrich Nietzche” courtesy

He who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.

Click for details on Mitch Waxman’s
Upcoming walking and boat tours of Newtown Creek, and Staten Island’s Kill Van Kull

June 23rd, 2012- Atlas Obscura Thirteen Steps around Dutch Kills walk (this Saturday)

for June 23rd tickets, click here for the Atlas Obscura ticketing page

June 30th, 2012- Working Harbor Committee Kill Van Kull walk

for June 30th tickets, click here for the Working Harbor Committee ticketing page

July 8th, 2012- Atlas Obscura Walking Tour- The Insalubrious Valley

for July 8th tickets, click here for the Atlas Obscura ticketing page

July 22nd, 2012- Working Harbor Committee Newtown Creek Boat Tour

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