In New York, and cities across the country with combined sewage overflow systems, the aftermath of a severe rain event is a toxic sludge of untreated wastewater entering the city's rivers and harbors. As these events become more common and intense, due to global warming, cities are searching for innovative ways to prevent such overflows, without having to construct entirely new systems of stormwater piping.
Currently being implemented along the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, Sponge Park, is the product of landscape architect Susannah Drake and is seen as "part of a larger effort underway in New York to use "green infrastructure" instead of costly pipes and tunnels hidden underground to catch storm runoff. City officials are hopeful they can save some $2.4 billion over 20 years, while also sprucing up the city's open spaces, with the new approach to sewage."
Sledge profiles Drake's innovative design and assesses the potential for New York to replicate the program elsewhere.
"If New York City can mass produce bioswales and other green infrastructure quickly enough, it may be able to save billions on what [New York City Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Carter] Strickland calls 'tanks and tunnels,' which in turn lead to extremely expensive sewage treatment plants."