The Newtown Pentacle

Altissima quaeque flumina minimo sono labi

cyclopean symbol

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of those trips to Manhattan which I’ve been complaining about for the last few weeks actually ended in a fully catered boat ride, so it goes to show that not all things are horrible. While onboard, an NYC DEP “Honey Boat” was spotted and a humble narrator exclaimed “for maritime Sunday, once more unto the breach.”


The sludge vessel operation has four crews, each with six personnel. They work 12-hr shifts. Two vessels are used on a 6-day schedule but can be used on any day of the year. The third vessel is either dockside for repairs or in a standby mode.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“Honey” or Sludge Boats, carry the end product of the waste water treatment process from their source to a secondary location for further treatment and “dewatering.” The latter involves centrifuges and turns the dark stuff from something with the consistency of pea soup into something which is like wet corn meal or grits, which will be used as fertilizer for non food crops or just end up in some former coal mine or landfill in Pennsylvania.


Dewatering reduces the liquid volume of sludge by about 90%. New York City operates dewatering facilities at eight of its 14 treatment plants. At these facilities, digested sludge is sent through large centrifuges that operate like the spin cycle of a washing machine. The force from the very fast spinning of the centrifuges separates most of the water from the solids in the sludge, creating a substance knows as biosolids. The water drawn from the spinning process is then returned to the head of the plant for reprocessing. Adding a substance called organic polymer improves the consistency of the “cake”, resulting in a firmer, more manageable product. The biosolids cake is approximately 25 to 27percent solid material.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, as my companions on this boat trip were actually an elite upper crust from around NY Harbor and one such as myself cannot help but feel small in their company, the Honey Boat was the MV Newtown Creek.

Something about being near a hundred thousand gallons of concentrated sewage, and the name of the boat itself, made me feel as if I was back at home rather than upon the East River.

from wikipedia

Separation anxiety disorder (SAD) is a psychological condition in which an individual experiences excessive anxiety regarding separation from home or from people to whom the individual has a strong emotional attachment (e.g. a parent, grandparents, or siblings).

According to the American Psychology Association, separation anxiety disorder is the inappropriate and excessive display of fear and distress when faced with situations of separation from the home or from a specific attachment figure. The anxiety that is expressed is categorized as being atypical of the expected developmental level and age. The severity of the symptoms ranges from anticipatory uneasiness to full-blown anxiety about separation.

Also: Upcoming Tours!

13 Steps around Dutch Kills Saturday, May 4, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Parks and Petroleum- Sunday, May 12, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

The Insalubrious Valley- Saturday, May 25, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets on sale soon.

Hidden Harbor: Newtown Creek tour with Mitch Waxman – Sunday, May 26,2013
Boat tour presented by the Working Harbor Committee,
Limited seating available, order advance tickets now. Group rates available.

Written by Mitch Waxman

April 28, 2013 at 12:15 am

2 Responses

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  1. I was wondering what shoreline I am looking at in the last picture.
    Please let me know, thanks.

    jaye haviland

    May 5, 2013 at 7:01 am

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