Plan Eludes NYC

THE BIG APPLE may have bitten off more than it could chew when Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Administration announced eight marine transfer stations (MTS) would be renovated to help service the city's solid waste needs. New York recently discovered the costs of doing so will require an additional $160 million and take four years longer than expected to build.

In July 2002, after the Fresh Kills Landfill had closed, the mayor's office announced it would send an estimated 11,000 to 14,000 tons of trash per day to eight MTS in four boroughs and a ninth land-based transfer station in Staten Island. Once at the MTS, refuse would be sealed into metal containers, placed on river barges and then moved to ocean-going ships or rail cars before heading to its final disposal site. Key to this plan, however, was renovating the MTS so that they could containerize and compact waste onsite.

Currently, the city trucks trash from all over the metro area to land-based transfer stations in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. Refuse then is transported to states such as Pennsylvania, Virginia and Ohio, but the truck traffic and subsequent costs and pollution are making residents and city officials unhappy. Last year, the city spent approximately $248 million on trucking and landfill costs.

As a solution, the mayor proposed renovating the MTS — but the administration recently was informed of the higher costs and time to accomplish the tasks. So, the city is searching for disposal alternatives, such as using land transfer stations in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx that are adjacent to water or rail areas. Another company has proposed waste gasification, a chemical or heat process that converts solid material into a gas for use as fuel. And yet another proposal includes using semisubmersible ships to carry at least 18 barges to landfills located in the Northeast or as far as the Caribbean. Although alternate plans may sidestep the MTS option, waste collected under city contract will still be shipped by barge or rail.

Yet, “even if there's a new technology, it is not going to become operational over night, so we're moving ahead with our plans for MTS,” says New York Department of Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty.