After Hurricane Sandy significantly set back a project to build a new water tunnel between Brooklyn and Staten Island, excavation work is now complete. Staten Island Reporter Amanda Farinacci got an exclusive look at the progress and filed the following report.
Ever walk around 10 stories below sea level? Well, we did, as we got a sneak peek at the new tunnel that will eventually ensure that Staten Island residents always have drinking water.
"This is what will keep water pressure and water service in Staten Island," said Seth Myers of the Economic Development Corporation.
The Richmond Tunnel is the primary supplier for water on Staten Island, and the new, deeper tunnel, called a siphon, is meant as a backup.
The new siphon will replace two others that are nearly a hundred years old, and much more shallow.
Building a tunnel that's deeper is critical to accommodating the new, larger container ships of the future.
"It keeps New York harbor competitive to other international ports where the goods can come from," Myers said.
Building a water tunnel between Brooklyn and Staten Island is no simple feat, but it was made easier using a huge drill called a tunnel boring machine.
"This is going through a soft ground soil, kind of mucky type material," said James Garin of the Department of Environmental Protection.
Work began in July 2012, and the boring machine had progressed about 1,600 feet when Hurricane Sandy hit.
The storm damaged the machine, and it took 18 months to repair it under water.
But once it was back up and running, it only moved about four feet a day.
So to get workers back and forth to the machine from both boroughs, train tracks were installed.
"You'd have people coming in and supplies coming in and the muck and the soils being removed on the opposite end and this way the system was always continually moving," Garin said.
The next phase of construction will take place 100 feet below sea level where a six foot water main will be installed.
The area around the water main pipe will be filled with cement.
The $294 million project is a partnership between the city and the Port Authority.
The agencies are hoping the work is fully complete next summer - when this will be closed up, a water filtration plant built, and everything that's happening under ground can be monitored from above.