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City Has New Plan To Turn Sewage Into Energy

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New Yorkers produce a lot of things and one of them is more than one billion gallons of wastewater every day. Now there's a way some of that can be put to good use. The city is partnering with a utility company to create energy in Brooklyn. Roger Clark filed the following report.

It’s impossible to tell from the outside, but the giant "digester eggs" at the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant in Greenpoint are producing methane gas, the main component of natural gas. The ingredient is New Yorker's solid waste.

"It's a great, very renewable resource. As long as we have people in New York City we are going to have this renewable resource,” said Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Carter Strickland.

Right now, the plant only uses about 40 percent of the methane produced for its own operations, the other 60 percent is "flared,” released into the atmosphere. But under a new partnership, utility National Grid will take that methane and use it to heat homes in the area.

"We'll capture that methane, we'll scrub it through a technology and re-inject it into our gas system,” said Ken Daly, president of National Grid NY.

Which will provide heat for more than 5,000 Brooklyn homes. It's also a plus for the environment. The reduction in greenhouse gas emissions will be the equivalent of removing nearly 19,000 cars from the road. National Grid will build the facility to help make it all happen, and food scraps from local schools are being added to the solid waste already being converted during the process with the help of the firm Waste Management and the Sanitation Department.

"We're going to have a great program, we're going have less waste to get rid of, and less waste to go to landfills, and generate a lot more energy that can be used in this community,” said Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty.

"We produce 500 million cubic feet of methane here every year, so we are hoping to re-use as much as possible,” Strickland said.

Construction on this project is set to begin next year with a scheduled completion date sometime in 2015. If it's successful, all of the partners involved say they would like to see it expand to other parts of the city.

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