The next time it rains, the city’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) wants Queens residents to wait until it stops before doing the dishes, taking a shower or flushing a toilet.
The appropriately titled “Wait…” pilot program is expanding throughout western Queens, the DEP announced on Monday. Participating homeowners and tenants are sent text messages alerting them that the Newtown Creek and Bowery Bay Wastewater Treatment plants are near capacity — and that they should minimize their water use in order to prevent sewer overflows from spilling into already polluted waterways such as the Newtown Creek and Flushing Creek.
The pilot program area of Queens covers all neighborhoods north of the Jackie Robinson Parkway and west of the Van Wyck Expressway, as well as portions of Kew Gardens Hills and Briarwood.
According to advocates, the Wait Program is geared at educating the public about where their dirty water winds up after going down the drain. Wastewater produced whenever someone washes clothes or dishes, or even flushes a toilet, travels into the city’s vast underground sewer system, destined for one of many sewage treatment plants for cleanup and processing.
But in a heavy rain event, not all of the storm runoff and wastewater winds up in the sewage treatment plants. When the plants hit capacity, excess wastewater is expelled through combined sewer overflows into waterways across the city. About 90 percent of the overflow is comprised of storm runoff, and the rest is household wastewater containing detergents, chemicals and raw sewage.
Hey, how about limiting the building in these boroughs until the city gets a handle on how much waste they produce?