New York City Asks Public Input for Rainwater Control

Thursday, Jan 7, 2010  |  Updated 5:18 PM CDT
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New York City Asks Public Input for Rainwater Control

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NEW YORK, New York, October 6, 2008 (ENS) - The autumn rains will soon flow down the streets of New York City, and as they do, city officials are asking for public input on how to capture more of the stormwater before it overflows the city's sewer system, causes flooding and pollutes waterways.

A plan for the immediate and long-term control of stormwater was issued for public comment Friday by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Within two years, the stormwater plan aims to enact policies that will capture over one billion additional gallons of stormwater.

The Draft Sustainable Stormwater Management Plan is a component of PlaNYC - the Bloomberg administration's plan for the city of 8.2 million people that details how the city will prepare for a million more residents by 2030.

"We designed PlaNYC to be a detailed roadmap for the city to meet the enormous challenges we will face as our population grows, our infrastructure ages, and our environment continues to be at risk,” said Mayor Bloomberg. PlaNYC covers land, water, transportation, energy air and climate change.

"Whether it's flooding or polluting our waterways, stormwater management is a necessary and critical facet of managing our city," said the mayor. "Since its initial unveiling in April 2007, we've encouraged public participation in PlaNYC and we are now asking for New Yorkers' input on this component of the plan.”

Local Law 5 of 2008 formalized the city's commitment to create a Sustainable Stormwater Management Plan, requiring a completed formal plan by December 1, 2008.

To reduce water pollution from combined sewer overflows and stormwater runoff, PlaNYC called for a task force to coordinate stormwater planning issues and to create a plan to implement sustainable strategies citywide.

Formed in May 2007, the Interagency Best Management Practices Task Force brought together 13 New York City agencies to analyze source control stormwater management techniques. The considered the design and construction of public as well as private projects to capture stormwater and reduce combined sewer overflows and runoff.

The city is spending nearly $2 billion on storage tanks and sewer expansion to reduce combined sewer overflows from today's levels.

Additional control strategies range from large infrastructure investments in treatment plants and storage tanks that control stormwater at the end of the pipe to numerous small installations that control stormwater at its source.

"We need both types of systems to improve our wet weather CSO capture rate, to reduce other untreated discharges and, over time, to provide flood relief," the draft stormwater plan states.

The draft plan sets forth an analytical framework for assessing alternatives for controlling stormwater and provides information about potential costs and benefits.

These alternatives are known as source controls, green infrastructure, low impact development, and best management practices.

The primary question the plan attempts to answer is whether a network of source controls can achieve pollution reductions that compare to controlling stormwater through conventional hard infrastructure.

Source controls prevent stormwater runoff from reaching waterways. They can be green roofs that absorb the rainwater, rain barrels that capture it, or porous pavement that allows the water to be absorbed by the soil. They can be grass-lined channels called swales that slow the water to allow sedimentation or let it infiltrate into the underlying soils.

Preliminary findings indicate that some source control strategies have the potential to reduce combined sewer overflows substantially through incremental investments made over the next 20 years, the draft plan states.

The city is already implementing source control initiatives. However, the plan points out, private parties have not widely adopted source controls in New York City, and there are many unresolved questions about the costs, benefits and feasible implementation of source controls that will only be answered through ongoing demonstration projects.

Over the next year, the city is undertaking more demonstration projects to answer these questions and will conduct more studies to model the impacts of source controls upon combined sewer overflows.

As part of the new plan, the city also will complete its water and wastewater rate study and reassess pricing for stormwater services.

PlaNYC's water quality goal calls for opening up 90 percent of city waterways for recreational use by reducing water pollution and preserving natural areas. Today, only 48 percent of the city's waterways are publicly accessible.

The Draft Sustainable Stormwater Management Plan is available on the PlaNYC website available at www.nyc.gov. Public comments will be accepted until October 31 and may be sent by email to bmptaskforce@cityhall.nyc.gov. Public feedback will be incorporated into the final plan, which will be released on December 1.

The Mayor's Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability will host a public meeting to present the draft plan at New York University's Kimmel Center on Tuesday, October 7, from 6:00 to 8:00 pm.

The PlaNYC website contains more details about the public meeting, instructions for submitting public comments, and more information about the City's water quality initiatives.

To submit a comment, log on to: http://www.nyc.gov/html/planyc2030/html/stormwater/stormwater.shtml

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.

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