Sh*t Talk: Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant Turns Poop Into Gas

© Gina Pollack

If the title of this post didn’t turn you away, rejoice, dear reader! Poop isn’t just a funny word, it’s also useful…for science.

Right in our own backyard, Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant is turning the organic waste from thousands of New Yorkers into natural gas. Ok, jokester, we don’t mean that kind of gas. We’re talking about renewable natural gas that National Grid will use to heat spaces like your own apartment.

The Department of Environmental Protection informed us that the city will deliver “pre-processed organic food waste” to the Newtown Creek facility, where it will mix with wastewater sludge to increase the production of biogas.

Where does this food waste come from? Schools and greenmarkets, of course. Their leftovers will find a new home in the Treatment Plant’s glorious digester eggs (which mimic the bacterial environment of a human stomach), where they’ll be broken down, releasing methane gas, which will then be converted to natural gas.

© Gina Pollack

Some useful trivia: the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant is the largest of its kind in New York, fed by 180 miles of sewers (which shuttle waste to our shores from Manhattan via underground East River tunnel) . Oh yeah, and those digester eggs I mentioned? They process1.5 million gallons of sludge every day (sludge is technically the organic material removed from sewage, i.e. poop). This organic waste is broken down and “dewatered” to form a kind of poop cake brick, if you will, which can in turn be used as fertilizer. So if the idea of heating your apartment from old food/wastewater grosses you out, think about the produce you eat being grown with the help of human fertilizers! Mmmm… biosolids.

Back to the biogas…according to the DEP, the recent food waste project will produce enough energy to heat over 5000 homes in NYC, and will reduce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to that of 19,000 cars.

That means we’re using our own waste to stop Global Warming, guys. And since those digester eggs are right here in Greenpoint, we can take personal credit for saving the plane, one sh*t at a time.

Check out more photos of the Treatment Plant on Gothamist.

Learn about where your NYC poop goes (hint: it enjoys to travel by train) in this enlightening Radiolab short.

2 Comments

  1. Sherry says:

    I still can’t get behind the idea of paying taxes to the city so that they can process my poop, and then the city either sells or gives away the byproduct to a for-profit gas company in order to transform it into something useful and sell it back to me. I’m paying for the privilege to flush in Greenpoint (and anywhere in Manhattan south of 70th Street)!

    Reply
    • Jen G says:

      Agreed. We should have some kind of flush-o-meter on our toilets so we can measure how much “future gas” we create and get credited for it!

      Reply

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