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HOST: Flooding in the Gowanus Canal is all too familiar to Park Slope residents. New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection is doing something about it – by 2030.
Last week, city officials announced a multi-million dollar effort to stop sewage from running into rivers and creeks, and stop water from drowning avenue blocks. A third of that is dedicated toward the Gowanus Canal.
The money is part of the city’s 20-year plan to create green infrastructure to clean up the superfund site.
Taylor Tepper has this report.
TEPPER: Imagine walking down Park Slope’s busy 4th Avenue and seeing a drain-water ditch covered in plants and soil and vegetation – kind of like a lowered garden.
Imagine roofs covered with blue-tiles that collect rainwater.
You would be looking at a bioswale and a blue roof. Both are part of the city’s “green infrastructure” plan that will, hopefully, end sewage from seeping into the Gowanus Canal.
It just might also stop the Gowanus from flooding.
Joann Amaitrano owns a building on 4th Ave and President Street. The property has been in her family for more than a century. And so too has the flooding.
JOANN (11 Sec.): It’s a nightmare. I could be out having a great time with my friends, and I’ll rush home to sandbag. And every one thinks I’m crazy, but now all my friends help me sandbag because they’ve seen how bad it can be.
TEPPER: And it can get pretty bad. Root Hill Café, a trendy coffee joint on the ground level of her building, flooded twice in one day last summer. That forced them to shut down and clean up the mess – which isn’t cheap.
TEPPER (4 Sec): How much money can it cost you?
JOANN: Thousands a year.
TEPPER: The problem is something called Combined Sewage Overflow. Basically, the same pipes that deal with the stuff that comes from bathrooms also deals with rainwater from the street.
So when there is a downpour, Gowanus’ sewage system is overrun and a combination of bathroom stuff and rainwater leaks into the canal. And Root Hill gets flooded.
Instead of building more treatment plants and holding tanks, or Gray infrastructure, which is expensive, the city is investing in things like blue roofs and bioswales.
These low-tech solutions slow down rainwater’s mad dash for street drains and ease the burden on overwhelmed pipes.
The only problem with green infrastructure is that it takes up a lot of room and everyone in the community has to chip.
It can also be expensive.
HANS (25 Sec): We pay for our storm water management systems by paying water bills – that’s what pays to clean water and that’s what pays to treat our dirty water.
That’s Hans Hesselein. He works at Gowanus Canal Conservancy, an environmental non-profit advocacy group.
HANS: And if we’re going to solve our combined sewer overflow problems in New York City, we’re going to have to spend a lot of money through the DEP to implement those controls.
TEPPER: If planting a garden on the top of your roof is the answer to flooding, hand Joann a shovel. She’s tired of seeing just how high the water can go.
Joann (3 Sec): It can go over the roofs of cars – I have pictures.
TEPPER: For now, though, Joann listens to the weather report with a pile of sandbags nearby.
Taylor Tepper in Brooklyn.