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New York City's Wastewater Treatment System

How You Can Make a Difference

Although wastewater treatment seems like an enormous and technical process, New Yorkers can help to maintain a healthy water and environment. Here are some of the things everyone can do:

Conserve water

There are many simple ways to use less water every day, such as taking shorter showers, turning off the faucet when you brush your teeth or shave and fixing leaks.

Keep hazardous substance out of the sewer system

Reduce the use of hazardous household products. Never pour hazardous materials down a sink or toilet or dump them into a storm drain. Save hazardous wastes for a DOS household waste collection day or wrap them safely in plastic and call the DOS for instructions. And remember, it's against the law to dump used motor oil down a storm drain. It should be taken to a gasoline service station for recycling.

Don't litter

Everyday items like coffee cups, straws and candy wrappers tossed into the street may wash down storm drains and end up on our beaches. If you've got litter to discard, look for a corner waste can or take it home with you.

Use Mass Transportation

Vehicles are responsible for 90 percent of the carbon monoxide in the air and are the greatest contributor to ground-level ozone, the major component of smog. By taking public transportation or carpooling, you help reduce the toxic chemicals that enter the wastewater treatment systems as a result of air pollution.

Dispose of grease properly

Don't throw used cooking oil down the sink or toilet as grease accumulations in the sewer system can cause serious blockages. Every time you cook, place the leftover oil in a non-recyclable, plastic container (like a yogurt container or a clear, plastic, takeout food container). Cover and store the container in the refrigerator.When the container is filled, throw it out with your regular trash.

Volunteer for Shoreline Cleanup and Survey Programs

These efforts are co-sponsored by DEP, the New York City Soil and Water Conservation District (NYCSWCD) and the American Littoral Society (ALS). Scheduled beach surveys take place throughout the City. Volunteers record the amounts and types of floatable materials that wash up on the beaches. This information helps DEP keep track of the effectiveness of its floatables capture programs. If you are interested in participating, contact the NYCSWCD at (212) 431-9676 and the ALS at (718) 471-2166.

Report dry weather discharges

If you see dry weather sewage discharges from any of New York City's 700 combined sewer outfalls (an outfall is an outlet along the waterfront connecting the City's sewers to the open waters) report it to the City's Citizen Service Center at 311.

Each outfall has a sign with the identification number assigned to it by DEC. Be sure to give the 311 operator the outfall number when calling to report a problem.

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