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Wastewater plant caps $253M green upgrade

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The Bowery Bay Wastewater Treatment Plant in the Steinway section of Astoria has reached a $253 million milestone in its long-term plan to cut down its nitrogen.

Cas Holloway, commissioner for the city Department of Environmental Protection, announced upgrades for various infrastructure and equipment at the plant had been completed. He said in a statement Oct. 26 that these upgrades were necessary to prepare for installing biological nitrogen removal technology, which will reduce the amount of nitrogen the bay discharges into the East River on a daily basis from approximately 26,000 pounds to 12,000 pounds.

“This investment is critical to the reliability and long-term sustainability of the Bowery Bay Wastewater Treatment Plant, which treats up to 150 million gallons of wastewater each day,” Holloway said.

As part of the renovations, the electrical work at the plant has been renovated from a 208-volt system to a 480-volt system, the DEP said. The equipment for distributing the electricity has also been upgraded for reliability and has the capacity to power both existing equipment and additions to the system. The gravity thickeners, which are used to make solids removed from wastewater uniform before they are sent to the digesters, have also been rehabilitated. Walls and walkways which were deteriorating were also repaired. All these repairs cost $253 million.

City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) said he applauded the goals of the project, although he wants the plant to be sure that when the work is being done, proper precaution is taken so smells that emanate from the facility shutting down the equipment or moving tanks do not enter the neighborhood

“Unfortunat­ely the work being done has led too many times to sewage smells permeating the neighborho­od,” Vallone said.

He said Astoria often gets hit with smells from Bowery Bay or the Wards Island Plant.

“It’s a lot for one neighborhood to take,” Vallone said.

The DEP said that while nitrogen does not provide a hazard to humans, it can degrade a waterway’s ecology, leading to reduced levels of dissolved oxygen and excessive growth of algae.

The technology to remove nitrogen is scheduled to be complete in 2012. In August, work began to cut down on the nitrogen coming from the Hunts Point Wastewater Treatment Plant in the Bronx as well, with upgrades at Bowery, Tallman Island and Wards Island the nitrogen discharges into the East River are expected to be decreased by more than 52 percent by 2012, the DEP said.

The upgrades to the latter three plants are expected to cost $770 million, and the upgrades at Hunts Point are expected to cost $300 million.

The plant, which has been in operation since 1939, has the capacity to treat 150 million gallons of wastewater per day.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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