Flush a toilet, drop something down your sink, or watch rainwater go down a storm drain around North Brooklyn, and the wastewater will likely end up at the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. Here the wastewater is screened and disinfected before being dumped into the East River. Before it goes out to sea, however, it goes into one of eight digester eggs that break down the raw sewage into a mushy solid they call “cake.” It’s basically what happens in your belly when you make poop, but on a much larger scale.
The Visitor Center, designed by performance artist–turned–architect Vito Acconci, is open by appointment. They also conduct special tours of the Digester Eggs on Halloween, Easter for a Digester Egg Hunt and Tour, and on Valentine’s Day.
They postponed the Valentine’s Day tour last week because ice dangling from the digester eggs posed a threat to visitors. Tonight was the make up date, and we went. What better way to spend a Tuesday evening than to learn about and tour the facility that processes our poop before heading out to sea?
The superintendent conducted an hour-long presentation about the whole treatment process. It turns out that poop doesn’t go out to sea at all. Close to 94% of all the wastewater New York City dumps to our waterways is actually clean water. Consequently, the waterways surrounding New York City are cleaner than they’ve been in over 100 years. The other fascinating but bothersome fact was that the digester have trouble processing non-organic material that can’t be broken down by the digestion process. One such product is pharmaceuticals. Every pill a New Yorker pops and passes will eventually go into our waterways, turning our fish into overmedicated drug addicts.
Although the entire tour was long, it was really entertaining. Everyone at the plant appears to love their job and feel a sense of purpose. If we could all be so happy and fulfilled at work.
As far as gimmicky Valentine’s Day events, this is way better than booking a table at White Castle.