Clean Water, Safe Water
DC 37 head Lillian Roberts gets on board as
sludge boat operators and sewage treatment workers labor to keep New
York waters clean.
A six-man crew of Marine Workers ferry a sludge tanker through
busy New York Harbor. Six days a week, sludge is loaded onto
vessels and transported from Harlems North River Wastewater
Treatment Plant, to be processed into pure water and biodegradable
fertilizer to be used on citrus farms.
By DIANE S. WILLIAMS
The urban myth of albino alligators lurking in New York City sewers
was debunked for good when DC 37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts
toured the North River Wastewater Treatment Plant June 24.
Instead of reptilian predators, Ms. Roberts and other DC 37 leaders
and Dept. of Environmental Protection managers met dozens of skilled
DC 37 members who diligently protect the environment and keep city beaches
and waterways safe. Years ago water treatment plants polluted
New York waters; now we protect the environment, said DEP Superintendent
Members of Sewage Treatment Workers and Senior Sewage Treatment Workers
Local 1320, Marine Workers Local 2906 and Electronic Data Processing
Personnel Local 2627 operate the plant one of 14 in the city
and crew the huge ships that take away treated sludge for drying
at other sites. The 28-acre facility handles raw sewage and storm runoff
from the 11-mile stretch that runs from Bank Street in lower Manhattan
to West Harlem.
Plant Superintendent Steve Askew and 145 DC 37 members employ environmental
engineering, computer technology, and natures forces of gravity
and biology to purify 170 million gallons of wastewater every day for
more than a half million West Side residents and millions of Manhattan
Thirteen hours a day, six days a week, the Marine Workers ferry sludge-filled
tankers from the North River plant for dewatering at DEP facilities
on the East River. Navigating New York Harbor, one of the busiest in
the world, can be treacherous for the DEP seamen, who are on constant
lookout for passenger ferries, sailboats and other small craft crisscrossing
the East and Hudson rivers from Brooklyn to the Bronx. The crews also
monitor riverbanks for illegal dumping, and, more recently, terrorist
Local 1320 Pres. James Tucciarelli
and DC 37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts view the ships
They can be proud
of their longstanding record: They transport billions of gallons of
toxic sludge without incident. Outstretched above the North River plant
is Riverbank State Park, a recreational area used by millions of New
Yorkers. In its bowels four stories below sea level is an automated
labyrinth of pipes, aeration tanks, engines, blowers and filtration
systems designed to recycle waste water into two ecological byproducts:
clean water and biodegradable solids, which are converted to fertilizer
for citrus groves and tomato farms in the South and West.
Our members keep the work in-house and install, maintain and monitor
this multi-billion dollar facility, said Local 1320 President
James Tucciarelli. The technicians make sure the facility operates at
a standard higher than required by law.
A foul-up could cost the plant superintendent his license and
livelihood, as well as federal fines and jail time for EPA violations,
Mr. Tucciarelli explained. That our Marine Workers and Sewage
Treatment Workers have never had an environmentally threatening spill
speaks volumes to the fine job they do keeping New York waterways clean,
Ms. Roberts said. All of these DC 37 members have the highest
caliber of training and qualifications needed to get the job done right.