Walking east up Greenpoint Avenue, the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant comes into view as a large construction site with 30 foot tall pipelines, bobcat bulldozers, and temporary fences. Nearing the facade, which is a bright orange, the sound of trickling water can be heard from the fountains and waterfalls in front. Inside the lobby, there are more fountains, and a wooden model of what the treatment plant is supposed to look like when it is complete.
The treatment plant is not normally open to the general public, but it was during the weekend of October 10-11 that Open House New York took place. The event is an an architectural celebration of New York City and it allows members of the general public to tour locations throughout the five boroughs that are usually inaccessible.
At the wastewater treatment plant, people were allowed to see the most visually intriguing portion, the stainless steel “digester eggs,” courtesy of the Department of Environmental Protection. The tour started at the orange facade, and went east up Greenpoint Avenue. Past the tall, gray factory buildings was the dirt road entrance to the eggs, which stand 145 feet above the ground and have the capacity to process 1.5 million gallons of waste, or sludge, a day.
The OHNY group took a 30-second elevator ride up to the observation deck on top of the eggs and was led through a glass and steel covered corridor with stunning views of Greenpoint on one end, Queens on the other, and Manhattan in the distance. The air smelled of burning oil and hot methane, which, according to the tour guide and project manager of the plant, Greg Clawson, comes from the eggs and the construction site below.
“The sludge in the eggs are heated to 95 degrees Fahrenheit, or 35 degrees celsius,” Clawson said. “It makes the sludge easier to process.”
“But if you fall in,” Clawson said, referring to a window that guests could look through to “observe” the sludge, “excuse my language but you’re going to be in deep shit.”