I’m finally heading out to the Newtown Creek Water Pollution Control Plant in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, with AIA New York | Center for Architecture (AIANY), as part of its annual #Archtober event, Building of the Day.
Getting into this civic project can be a tough ticket battle, as the facility only opens its door to the public three times a year in February, April, and October. With tour themes like “My Smelly Valentine” in February and “Earth Day” in April, as well as the October tour’s affiliation with Open House New York, all three tours sell out fast.
The largest of the 14 wastewater treatment plants in New York City, the upgrade and modernization of the Newtown Creek Water Pollution Control Plant was divided into nine phases over 25 years, beginning in 1998 with a budget of $4.5 billion.
The first of the plan was completed in 2009 at the cost of $680 million. It includes a new centrifuge structure and a disinfection facility, all connected with glass walkways by Ennead Architects (formerly Polshek Partnership). Additionally, it has a colorful welcome center designed by famed installation artist and architectural designer Vito Acconci, lighting design by Hervé Descottes of L’Observatoire International, and a quarter-mile nature walk by environmental sculptor George Trakas.
However, the real showstoppers are the eight futuristic, stainless steel-clad digesters, amusingly referred to as “digester eggs.” The digester eggs are fed by 180 miles of sewers, processing in wet weather a stunning 1.2 to 2.6 million cubic meters of wastewater daily!
According to Micah Walter of Cooper Hewitt, who took one of the early tours in 2012, “The digester eggs mimic the function and temperature of a human stomach, as black, bubbly ooze is fermented by bacteria to create the sludge for further processing. This process stabilizes the sludge by converting most of the organic material into water, carbon dioxide, and methane gas (the gas is then used to power the plant).”
I’m hoping they still let you peak into the digesters and see the black stuff percolate. (Equal parts ewwwwww + yay!)