New York City’s residents are full of shit. About 36,000 tons of shit to be exact. That’s the amount of waste New Yorkers send to the sewers each day. Which begs the question, where does it all go? When we flush the toilet, where are our “dumps” dumped?
I contacted the Department of Environmental Health for answers. My inquisitions, however, fell on deaf ears. A DEP bigwig curtly instructed me to “Just go look at our website.” So I did. And besides finding this pretty lil graphic:
I was still at square one. Thankfully, the internet is a bottomless source for information and I was soon able to put the pieces together.
So here’s the deal: All of our water sources (toilets, sinks, showers) are connected to drain pipes. These drain pipes carry out our sewage into a lateral pipe usually located outside our apartment/house. The sewage then essentially flows downhill to other pipes. Their destination is to a sewage treatment plant (NYC has 14 of them) where the water goes through a mechanical treatment that removes 60% of suspended solids (large objects like cans, grease, oils that could clog the equipment) and sends those solids to a landfill.
Whatever is remaining goes through a secondary treatment where aerobic bacteria breaks down food waste, human waste, soap etc. The bacteria consumes the organic components and gets rid of the less soluble parts.
Finally, the water is disinfected via chlorine, ozone or ultraviolet light and released back to the environment through streams, lakes, ground etc.
Pretty good system, no? Wish I could say the same about NYC’s garbage.
Back in the day, NYC’s garbage was dumped in the ocean. In 1988, however, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency realized that was gross and really bad for, like, the world and passed a bill that banned ocean dumping in NYC. Garbage was then mostly sent to neighboringlandfills but even that eventually reached capacity. Today, we outsource our waste, sending it to landfills in places like New Jersey and Pennsylvania and spend about $400 million to do it. The exorbitant costs and precarious method of outsourcing has caused many to wonder what the future has in store for NYC’s waste. Until we find out, recycle. And follow the old adage, “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If its brown, flush it down!”