Borough residents urged to ‘wait’ before doing laundry, flushing toilets during rain storms

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The city has asked Queens residents to reduce their water use during rainstorms in an effort to cut down on pollution in Newtown Creek, Bowery Bay, Flushing Creek and Flushing Bay. This is a first-in-the nation undertaking.

Homeowners and tenants are requested to voluntarily wait to engage in water-intensive activities, such as doing laundry, washing dishes or even flushing the toilet during inclement weather in order to create additional capacity in the combined sewers system, reducing the likelihood of a sewer overflow into nearby water bodies, according to the city’s Department of Environmental Protection.

“While we invest hundreds of millions of dollars every year to build infrastructure that protects the health of local waterways, the Wait Program engages citizens and allows them to directly contribute to the protection of our environment,” DEP Commissioner Vincent Sapienza said. “New York Harbor is cleaner today than it has been in more than a century and with the help of all New Yorkers we can continue to build on this important progress.”

The Wait Program will utilize real-time data and alert participants by text message when overflow events are expected, especially during heavy rainfalls when the amount of stormwater and wastewater can be discharged into area waterways.

“The pilot Wait Program will help reduce pollution in our city’s greatest resource — our waterways,” City Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria), the chairman of the Environmental Protection Committee, said. “Volunteering to wait to perform chores like laundry and dish washing reduces the likelihood of sewage overflow into water bodies, including Bowery Bay.”

DEP is the first water utility in the nation to pilot this type of program, which is modeled on a successful initiative administered by the Newtown Creek Alliance, a community-based organization dedicated to restoring the polluted body of water that separates western Queens and northern Brooklyn.

“There is an immediate opportunity for residents to reduce pollution by being aware of when sewage treatment plants hit capacity during rain events and overflow into local waterways, and then taking action to not create additional wastewater during these crucial periods,” Newtown Creek Alliance Program Director Willis Elkins said. “While we seek continued investment from the city to improve long-term sewer infrastructure and stormwater collection, educating the public about the impacts of our own wastewater, especially during rain events, is one of the few options that can be implemented today.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

Updated 6:19 am, March 14, 2018
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Reader feedback

The FIlth of Forest Hills from Forest Hills/Kew Gardens says:

This is caused by not only badly planned over-development with no regard to infrastructure, but how about making sure that grass and other greenery are not paved over with cement. This cementing over everything green is one of the main reasons for run-off water into the sewer system (take a look at most homes in SE Queens for this). What about enforcing litter laws, another issue that clogs already over-stressed sewer systems. All of these reasons for this CRAP.

The answers are pretty SIMPLE, but no, let's "wait to flush" and any other dumb ideas that the powers that be come up with. Everything except smart and in your face solutions on the many problems that plague this f**ked up city.

Flush this city and this administration, not that previous were any better, in fact previous administration is why we have this hyper irresponsible over-development.
March 14, 2018, 6:20 am
Urban Mole from Flushing NY says:
When will the paving stop?
There is nothing more that has contributed to stormwater overflow and flood issues across Queens than by City approved over development and paving. Thats right, the conversion of former permeable surfaces to impermeable surfaces by paving. Its occurring daily in all neighborhoods at every new building site even though the 2008 Yardage Contextualization Law prohibits it. Its that simple. Yet NYC Dept of City Planning and the rest of the knuckelheads at NYC DOB absolutely refuse to enforce the law and the illegal conversions of yardage to impermeable. Yet the City and DEP have the nerve to burden Queens homeowners again to alter their behaviors when those that are requesting this, refuse to alter theirs.
March 14, 2018, 4:57 pm
Urban Mole's Neighbor from Flushing NY says:
I am echoing the above statements. The DOB turns a blind eye to the overbuilding and rampant paving of green space, which not only causes the sewer runoff problems but I speculate also contributes to the toppling of trees every time we have a storm.
March 15, 2018, 6:07 am

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