The Newtown Pentacle

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The Invisible Flame, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Pictured above is the so called “Unnamed Canal” tributary of Newtown Creek, found in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint. Roughly analogous to North Henry Street’s intersection with Kingsland Avenue, were North Henry’s northern terminus not enclosed entirely within the NYC DEP’s Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant’s fence line.

Directly to the west is the former DSNY Maritime Waste Transfer station, to the east is the home of Allocco Recycling. Sharp eyes will notice the Newtown Creek Alliance Living Dock project bobbing around in the water at the eastern, or left side of the shot.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A fairly uncommon view of the sewer plant, with its iconic stainless steel digester eggs dominating the shot. These eggs process “thickened sludge” using biological processes. What comes out of them has been effectively sterilized by the micro organisms which are cultivated and maintained within, but the process does generate several waste products along the way. Within, a material called “Struvite” collects on the hard surfaces which requires the DEP to perform maintenance at regular intervals to scrape the stuff away.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Another byproduct of the digester process are mephitic gases. The four Venturi jet structures you see at the left side of the image above are the exhaust pipes for the process, and the mephitic gas they are designed to handle is Methane, which is burned off. When the system first came online, the Methane flames were the characteristic bright blue turning to orange that anyone with a domestic stove is familiar with. Passerby on the Long Island Expressway who saw the flames would regularly call 911 to report a fire occurring at the plant. The DEP responded by “tuning” the speed and temperature of the Venturi structures to render the flames invisible.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The largest point source of greenhouse gases on the Brooklyn side of the Newtown Creek, these jets produce an invisible flame whose only visual cue is the diffraction of light. The DEP has famously entered into a contract with the National Grid corporation, which will harvest the Methane currently being burnt off. National Grid will use the Methane to augment their “Natural Gas” network, selling it to their customers.

The Invisible Flame, btw, is an analogy used in Islamic mysticism when referring to a supranatural race of mischievous or malign spirits whom they call the Djinn. Western Europeans use the term “Demon” for the Djinn.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

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Written by Mitch Waxman

October 29, 2015 at 1:00 pm

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