The Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant in Greenpoint, Brooklyn is converting human waste to renewable energy in a new program that’s among the first in the nation. NY1’s Josh Robin filed the following report.
Before you poo-poo the idea, listen up: The city that's trying to make you eat better says it's also doing good on the other side.
"We were looking for some way to use it in some beneficial fashion," said Vincent Sapienza of the Department of Environmental Protection.
"It" is what you think it is, and no, they're not full of it.
For about an eighth of the city, what's left in the bathroom ends up at the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.
Liquids are separated and cleaned. Non-organic matter is tossed into landfills.
The organic matter would get carted away. Then engineers discovered a way to increase the gas that human waste naturally produces by storing it inside distinctive structures known as eggs at 98 degrees—the same as our bodies.
"We heat the sludge, we mix it and then naturally occurring microbes break down those organics into more basic components, one of them being methane gas, which has a beneficial use," said Sapienza.
That beneficial use could be powering your home, which is what National Grid will eventually do. Enough methane to heat 2,500 homes will flow from the plant.
It’s not much, but it's a start. Officials say they'll eventually charge the utility a million dollars per year.
Not all of the gas is released out into the air. It's used to power the plant's buildings and to heat the eggs to the optimum temperature, meaning what you flushed a month ago is used to organically break down what you flushed yesterday.
There are some unpleasant side effects.
"You can comment on what you think the odor is,” said Sapienza.
Don't worry, though: it will be deodorized before it's shipped out.
The waste isn't entirely converted to gas. Much of the rest is trucked to places where it helps reforest land.
In his state of the city speech, Mayor Bloomberg touted it all as an environmental win-win, but there is one unintended effect.
The plant is a huge draw for birds, which feast on what our bodies can't use. No one has figured out a way to recycle what they leave behind.