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May be another artifical reef coming to Florida?
LatitudeAdjustment - 4/17/2015 5:04 AM
Category: General
Replies: 2

Kevin Byrnes stood on the bridge of the Newtown Creek, an aging, 300-foot-long tanker that has served New York City since 1967, and looked admiringly down its length.

“It’s got really nice lines; you can’t get a nicer-looking ship of this kind than this,” said Mr. Byrnes, chief of marine operations for the city’s Department of Environmental Protection, the agency charged with the unenviable but essential task of disposing of the city’s sewage.

Mr. Byrnes, who oversees the city’s fleet of sewage-transporting sludge boats, seemed sincere in his praise of the Newtown Creek, and not just because he was trying to sell it.

He had obliged a request for a tour from a reporter who had seen the vessel advertised for sale by the city on an online auction site. After nearly half a century of hauling New Yorkers’ sewage, the Newtown Creek was being put out to pasture.

The page for Auction 1327532 — “Ship, Cargo, Sludge Tanker, Newtown Creek” — allows viewers an extensive photo and video tour, and describes the vessel as seaworthy, “in good working order” and “no engine trouble or oil leaks.”

The vessel is to be sold in “as is” and “where is” condition, the page notes, and the opening bidding price was listed at $235,000, payable by credit card.

In contrast with the page’s bureaucratic language, Mr. Byrnes’s description of the vessel was almost sentimental as he walked aboard the ship on Wednesday at the department’s wastewater treatment plant in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

He sounded more like a coach seeing his star veteran player retire, as he looked out over its maroon painted deck topped with large pipes and valves. Some of its crew members spent decades on the ship, he said, adding that “some of the guys really fell in love with it.”

Sludge vessels have been a part of the city’s wastewater treatment system since the late 1930s. Formally called marine cargo ships, they transport sludge, the term for the residual organic material removed from wastewater during its initial treatment.

After that, the sludge undergoes a dewatering process for conversion to pellets, which the city pays to have shipped out of state by trucks.

Since six of the 14 treatment plants in the city lack dewatering capabilities, the boats are necessary for transporting sludge from those six plants to one of the other eight for a final treatment.

The department retired the Newtown Creek last summer, and currently uses a fleet of five other sludge boats to transport nearly 1.2 billion gallons of sludge per year.

Three of those vessels were put into service last year, and have nearly double the capacity of the Newtown Creek, Mr. Byrnes said.

“We’re trying to keep up with the population and the production of sludge,” he said.

The Newtown Creek was built to dump sludge directly into the ocean away from the city, a practice that was ended in 1992, Mr. Byrnes said.

The Newtown Creek used to transport 1.2 million gallons of sludge per day, seven days a week. On a typical day, in its later years, it would load sludge from the Owl’s Head treatment plant, in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, and take it to the Port Richmond plant on Staten Island. Then it would take another load from the North River plant in West Harlem to the Wards Island plant. Its gray hulls may have dings and scrapes and dents, but its tall cylindrical stacks still stand tall, after serving decades as exhaust methane vents for the sludge tanks.

Its propellers, at seven feet in diameter, were powered by twin 1,500-horsepower diesel engines. It was powerful and ocean-worthy and maneuverable, Mr. Byrnes said. Though its storage tanks are empty, the feculent odor of its cargo is unmistakable.

Mr. Byrnes called the vessel’s life span remarkable. “They usually last about 30 years, so we did very well with this vessel,” he said

The vessel was well maintained and rarely had any problems, he said, but over the years, it had become difficult to find replacement parts.

“It’s been a great ship; it hasn’t taken too many sick days,” he said, heading up to the navigation bridge, with its 1950s-era fixtures and equipment that recalled a scene from “McHale’s Navy.”

After more than two months, the bidding window ended on Tuesday, with the Newtown Creek attracting no formal bids.

But Mr. Byrnes said two potential buyers had sent representatives recently to inspect the vessel. One was a Florida municipality — Mr. Byrnes would not divulge its name — seeking to sink it offshore as an artificial reef. The other was a scrap dealer from Maryland interested in the raw value of the 2,500-ton steel vessel.

It may not be the most elegant end for the Newtown Creek, he noted, but “the city certainly got its money’s worth out of this ship, and then some.”
Eric_R - 4/17/2015 12:24 PM
Thanks Ray. That would be a fitting end to it’s old life and a great tribute to it’s new one.