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Photos courtesy of NYC DEP
Photos courtesy of NYC DEP
The Rockaway Wastewater Treatment Plant and Jamaica Bay

An improvement project at a Queens waste facility aims to boost the health of one of the city’s biggest bodies of water for years to come, a city agency announced on Thursday.

On May 24, the city’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced it has commenced a $23 million project at the Rockaway Wastewater Treatment Plant. The upgrade will reduce the amount of nitrogen released into the bay, helping improve the overall ecology of the waterway.

The project is expected to be completed in 2020.

Nitrogen releases do not pose a threat to human health, according to DEP. Thus, treatment plants were not originally designed to remove the element.

However, with scientific research suggesting high nitrogen levels in water promote algae growth and dissolve oxygen, degrading the local ecology, the city is moving to reduce nitrogen discharges into its waterways. A total of $460 million in upgrades have already been completed at the Jamaica and 26th Ward Wastewater Treatment Plants, which also drain to Jamaica Bay.

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The project at the Rockaway Wastewater Treatment Plant, which currently removes approximately 45 percent of the nitrogen present in the treated water, will bring new mixers, piping, strainers and other improvements. When fully installed, the system will convert the organic nitrogen present in wastewater into inactive nitrogen gas that is released harmlessly into the atmosphere, DEP says.

“Jamaica Bay is a vitally important ecological and recreational resource for the borough of Queens, and the improvement of its overall health is a priority,” Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said. “DEP’s efforts to reduce the amount of nitrogen released into Jamaica Bay will do a great deal to enhance the bay’s water quality, promote a cleaner environment and improve public health. The DEP, led by Commissioner Vincent Sapienza, deserves to be commended for its dedicated work to improve the health of Jamaica Bay and our city’s water bodies.”

State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr., who represents the Rockaways and serves as a member of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee, said he was “happy to see that DEP is following up on further research that shows how harmful nitrogen can be to the health of the bay.”

“With this $23 million investment, the Rockaway Wastewater Treatment Plant can better protect not only Jamaica Bay and the public, but it also shows that the agency understands the concerns of my Rockaway constituency,” he continued.

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