Friday, December 19, 2014

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Frigid Day a Challenge For City's Outdoor Workers

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While it would be a luxury to take a day off to avoid the cold, some New Yorkers had no choice but to brave the elements Tuesday. NY1's Roger Clark filed the following report.

The Owls Head Wastewater Treatment Plant sits on the Brooklyn waterfront, but on a record cold day it resembled a polar ice station. A foggy mist rose from the settling tanks that treat the wastewater from the homes of hundreds of thousands of western Brooklyn residents.

"When people take showers or brush their teeth, water is a little bit warmer than the ambient air on a day like this, so you see a mist coming off the tanks like warm water is just condensing and forming a fog around the plant," said Department of Environmental Protection Deputy Commissioner Vincent Sapienza.

Despite the less than ideal conditions, a plant with the capacity to treat 120 million gallons of wastewater a day needs to run around the clock, and that means the frigid temperatures can't stop the routine for DEP workers.

"We told them dress in layers, if you start feeling your fingers or face being cold, come inside, warm up a little so we will rotate crews through, we'll give them frequent breaks, just have guys to check on each other to make sure everybody's safe," Sapienza said.

While conducting tasks like checking samples in the settling tanks and scraping grease off the top, the workers try to make the best of a job that residents are depending on them to do.

"We have a lot of ice, the wind is blowing extremely high today, so you have to be careful that you don't get pushed and slip on the ice," said Stephen Daly, a DEP worker.

"It's a little uncomfortable. You just have to make sure you dress right and be prepared, you know you are going to come and it's going to be one of those days so you just have to be prepared for it," said Mike Esposito, a DEP worker.

As one worker put it, a day like this is just another day except it's a lot colder. It's perhaps an understatement on a day when you can't feel your face after just a few minutes outside. ClientIP:,, UserAgent: CCBot/2.0 ( Profile: TWCSAMLSP