Celebrating Love Over Settling Tanks and Digesters

January 24, 2017

Featured

Newtown Creek facility remains a popular Valentine’s Day destination in New York

Though it may not be seen as a traditional romantic destination, hundreds of couples and others have participated in the Newtown Creek facility Valentine’s Day tours since the Brooklyn facility began offering them in 2012. Photo courtesy of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

Though it may not be seen as a traditional romantic destination, hundreds of couples and others have participated in the Newtown Creek facility Valentine’s Day tours since the tours began in 2012. Photo courtesy of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

While some couples’ Valentine’s Day plans involve a romantic dinner over candlelight or a ride in a horse-drawn carriage, others in New York City have decided to take a less traditional, more unique approach to the day dedicated to love. This year, these adventurous individuals will take advantage of an early Valentine’s tour of the grounds of a water resource recovery facility (WRRF) in Brooklyn on Feb. 6.

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has been holding the tours since 2012. It may not seem like one of the most romantic locations, but according to DEP, these tours remain quite popular. In the past 5 years, “hundreds of couples and others celebrating Valentine’s Day have visited the plant to learn about New York City’s water supply and wastewater systems, while enjoying scenic views of the New York skyline from atop Newtown Creek’s iconic stainless steel digester eggs,” according to a DEP press release.

Valentine’s Day tour participants enjoy scenic views of the New York skyline at the Newtown Creek facility. Photo courtesy of the New York City DEP.

Valentine’s Day tour participants enjoy scenic views of the New York skyline at the Newtown Creek facility. Photo courtesy of the New York City DEP.

During the tour, WRRF operators give an overview of the facility, as well as the wastewater treatment process. The Newtown Creek facility is one of the largest WRRFs in the city and is in the final stages of a $5-billion upgrade, according to the release.

This year, operators giving the tour likely will provide details about the upgrade and describe how the Newtown Creek facility will soon be the first in the U.S. to “purify biogas into renewable natural gas, which will heat nearly 5200 homes and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 90,000 metric tons each year — the equivalent of removing nearly 19,000 cars from the road,” the release says.

On Feb. 6, DEP will host early Valentine’s Day tours of the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. The oversized digester eggs remain a popular attraction during these tours. Photo courtesy of the New York City DEP.

On Feb. 6, DEP will host early Valentine’s Day tours of the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. The oversized digester eggs remain a popular attraction during these tours. Photo courtesy of the New York City DEP.

In addition to seeing the facility, visitors also can tour the visitor center by appointment. Designed by landscape architect, installation artist, and New York City-native Vito Acconci, the visitor center serves as a “destination for school trips and features installations describing how the city’s sewer system works,” according to the DEP Newton Creek website.

During the tours of facility and its grounds, visitors learn about the Newton Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant as well as the wastewater treatment process. Photo courtesy of the New York City DEP.

During tours of the facility and its grounds, visitors learn about the Newton Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant as well as the wastewater treatment process. Photo courtesy of the New York City DEP.

The facility also features its own Nature Walk, which is a 0.4-m (0.25–mi) public walkway along Newtown Creek that was designed by environmental sculpture artist George Trakas. “The walk affords visitors a unique view of its settling tanks and digesters, and is a good place to explore and learn about wastewater treatment, harbor water quality, and the history of New York City,” according to the DEP Nature Walk website.

As of December, the DEP said it had “already received numerous inquiries from people interested in attending one of the tours.”

— LaShell Stratton-Childers, WEF Highlights

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