Gotham JA Miele, Sr, PE

Water conservation cleans Long Island Sound, RL Swanson, DJ Tonjes

Marine vessels serving New York City, W Goyzueta, J Chen, K Byrnes, R Ferro

Line stops avoid bypass in pumping station, F Gallo

Pilot biological nutrient removal, B Bodniewicz, K Mahoney

Enhanced beach protection — 2000, FJ Oliveri, F Loncar, M Ellis

Telemetering in New York, S Rozelman, S Aziz

Job order contracting, MP Quinn, P Schrayer

Operational benefits of celebrating Water Week, RE Adamski, H Einsohn, M Keating, A Lamarche, B Olivieri

CSO signage: expanded notification, S Rozelman, P Lutz, F Loncar

Brooklyn student wins water prize

Executive director's message, P Cerro-Reehil

People and places

  Summer 2001 — Vol. 31, No. 2

Marine vessels serving New York City

by Walter Goyzueta, John Chen, Kevin Byrnes, and Rudy Ferro


Municipal sludge vessels have been a part of New York City's sludge disposal system since the late 1930s. The Federal Work Projects Administration (WPA) funded and built the first three Motorized Vessels(M/V): M/V Wards Island, M/V Tallman Island, and the M/V Coney Island. Before these vessels were available, sludge was routinely discarded into the surrounding waters from the few sludge facilities operating at that time. As a result, the harbor waters became so polluted that incoming traffic would find their hulls cleaned of any marine life. Unfortunately, much of the protective coatings would be damaged as well.

The Department of Sanitation, which ran the marine operation until the Department of Public Works took control in the 1940s, began restricting sludge disposal into the rivers at the end of the Depression. The concept of using marine vessels to transport and dispose of sludge to offshore waters was taken from Scotland. The New York City vessels, with a total capacity of 40,000 ft³, each served the plants for which they were named.

A crew of 20 men was common at this time with a stewards department and radio officer as part of the complement. During the war years (1941-1945) the tankers stayed away from the usual dumping area in the Narrows in fear of German U Boats that lurked off the coast. Instead, the sludge vessels were dispatched to the open waters in the Long Island Sound.

After the war, New York City's expansion resulted in the production of more sludge. The number of crews was increased from three to six, allowing for all treated sludge to be removed from the City. When the M/V Owls Head was built in 1952, the crew size was reduced from 20 to 14 men.

New York City's M/V North River

In 1972, with regulation under the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA), the vessels began to dump 4.5 mi past the Ambrose Lighthouse (12-mi site) with permits granted by USEPA. By that time the M/V Bowery Bay (1959) and M/V Newtown Creek (1967) had joined the M/V Owls Head. At the same time, the first three vessels (M/V Wards Island, Tallman Island and Coney Island) were retired from the City's service and came to be used by the private sector for hauling sludge for New Jersey Municipalities. In 1974 the M/V North River joined the sludge hauling operation. The fleet for this program consisted of four vessels until the M/V Bowery Bay was retired in 1987.

The largest vessels, M/V Newtown Creek and M/V North River, are semiautomated motor vessels with more than twice the capacity of the original sludge vessels. The crew size was reduced to eight in 1980 and reduced again in 1987 to the current size of six. In 1987, MPRSA was amended, and ocean dumping was moved from the 12-mi site to a 106-mi site. As a result, the operation of the M/V was changed to in-harbor work transporting sludge to four newly constructed New York City ocean-going barges for disposal to the 106-mi site.

In 1991, to comply with the Ocean Dumping Ban Act (ODBA), the M/V Newtown Creek, North River and Owls Head began transporting sludge from plants without dewatering facilities or other means of conveyance to plants with dewatering facilities for processing. Since barges were no longer needed, three were retired, and one, the Udalls Cove, was kept as part of the fleet for emergencies.

Vessels and volume

The efficiency of scheduled trips for sludge disposal was 99+% in the year 2000. Efficiency is measured in the number of trips made compared with the number of trips required to service the plants.

A condition survey has been performed on all sludge vessels during the past 2 years by an independent surveyor in conjunction with the Marine Section staff. Extensive audio gauging and inspections were made to determine the overall condition and subsequent life expectancy of the vessels.

The M/V Newtown Creek and the M/V North River were rated in good condition with an expected operating life of more than 20 years. The M/V Owls Head was evaluated to be in fair condition. Because the M/V Owls Head has limited capacity and because sludge production is increasing at the City's plants, the procurement of a replacement vessel was initiated.

Three of the vessels are described below:
Characteristics of sludge vessels
Marine vessel Year built Shipyard builder Overall length Capacity (ft³) Gross tons
Owls Head 1952 John H. Mathis Co. 282´00´´ 66,000 1643
Newtown Creek 1967 Wiley Manufacturing Co. 323´10´´ 102,000 2557
North River 1974 Maryland Shipbuilding 323´10´´ 102,000 2557


The sludge vessel operation has four crews, each with six personnel. They work 12-hr shifts. Two vessels are used on a 6-day schedule but can be used on any day of the year. The third vessel is either dockside for repairs or in a standby mode.

The sludge vessels normally serve four City plants that do not have dewatering facilities (Owls Head, Rockaway, Newtown Creek and North River). When necessary, say because of emergencies or other factors, sludge vessels are dispatched to service other plants. Except for shipyard or major repairs, the crews operate and maintain the vessels. Major repairs occur about every 2 years.

 Web extra: Summary of New York's water pollution control plants

In-harbor waters navigated include the East River, Upper and Lower Bay, Hudson River, Jamaica Bay, and Kill Van Kull. Typically, the Wards Island, Hunts Point, and 26th Ward plants are used as the delivery points for dewatering.

NYCDEP Harbor Survey Program, Water quality sampling stations (1993)

Water quality survey of New York Harbor

NYCDEP currently monitors the quality of water throughout New York Harbor. NYCDEP also identifies long-term water quality trends and determines City-wide compliance with New York State water quality standards.

NYCDEP's monitoring program—the New York Harbor Quality Survey—was established by the Metropolitan Sewerage Commission in 1909. It now provides the longest documented assessment of human effects on the City's water environment.

NYCDEP's water Quality Survey covers stations throughout New York Harbor. The Department monitors surface and bottom water quality and analyzes pollutant concentrations in sediment samples. In 1991, NYCDEP inaugurated the first custom-made vessel for year-round water quality sampling in New York Harbor. The HSV Osprey is an aluminum-hulled, 55-ft twin-engine diesel craft that contains a shipboard laboratory equipped to meet all quality control and sample handling requirements set forth by USEPA.

The HSV Osprey

 Web extra: Areas of New York's CSO Abatement Program

Cracking down on illegal connections

As mandated by New York State, the NYCDEP is engaged in abating illegal sewer connections. The tools that the City uses are:

  • Shoreline Survey Program
  • Sentinel Monitoring Program.

Monitoring vessel

The Shoreline Survey Program uses one of two recently acquired 25-ft vessels, Poseidon or Neptune, to inspect outfalls. To augment the surveys, the Sentinel Monitoring Program was initiated. This monitoring program draws samples from the harbor and compares the results with established baselines. This program also uses the Poseidon or Neptune,

Marine Section CSO and storm water

NYCDEP implemented a litter and floating debris collection program for the City's major combined sewer outfalls (CSOs). Interim containment facilities were begun in 1993 and were completed in 1997. The scope of NYCDEP's marine-skimming operation is dictated by the size of the Port of New York. New York City covers a land area of about 300 mi². By far the largest metropolitan population center in the nation, New York holds a population of over 7.3 million people, with 6400 mi of streets. As a major harbor and seaport, New York City includes 578 mi of waterfront and 14.3 mi of beaches.

Small skimmer vessel—used for the citywide floatable containment skimming program

The City-wide floatables containment program—a component of the Citywide Floatables Program—covers twenty-three sites in three zones with combined sewer and storm overflows. The total land area is 83,505 acres. Of this, a planned 63,745 acres are slated for CSO containment systems.

For marine skimming operations, the City is divided into four Zones:

  • Zone I, Jamaica Bay has containment systems at
  • Paerdegat Basin, Fresh Creek, Hendrix Creek, Bergen Basin and Thurston Basin, covering a CSO drainage area of 29,335 acres.

  • Zone II/III, Newtown Creek and Upper New York Harbor has containment systems at Coney Island Creek, Gowanus Canal, Wallabout Channel 1, Wallabout Channel 2, Maspeth Creek, East Branch, English Kills, Bushwick Inlet and Owls Head. Zone II/III covers a CSO drainage area of 11,618 acres.

  • Zone IV, the Upper East River with an area of
  • 42,552 acres, has containment systems at Bowery Bay, Flushing Bay, Flushing Bay, Flushing Creek, Westchester Creek, Bronx River, Hunts Point. and Clason Point.

The interim CSO system consists of containment booms and trash traps at major CSO outfalls coupled with mobile skimming vessels to collect and remove floatables. Roll-off dumpsters are staged at Jamaica Bay at Hendrix Creek, the 26th Ward WPCP, Whale Creek, the Newtown Creek WPCP, and Bowery Bay. The NYCDEP marine-skimming vessels include the Ibis, Piping Plover, Green Heron, and Snowy Egret. Belt type skimmers with hydraulic transmission power systems of approximately 45 ft overall length and capable of holding 20 yd³ of debris.

The Cormorant skimmer vessel—used for the open water harbor skimming program

The New York City Cormorant is a large class harbor skimming vessel. This vessel is of the net rather than belt variety—capable of handling timber and other heavy debris. The 120-ft 375-gross-ton vessel, commissioned in 1993, was constructed at Amfels shipyard in Brownsville, Texas. The Cormorant is powered with twin Schottel high volume, low velocity jet drives and has a capacity of 24 tons of debris.
See New York City's booming and skimming locations
Walter Goyzueta is Division Chief of the Residuals Operation in the Bureau of Wastewater Treatment, New York City Department of Environmental Protection. Phone 718-595-4925. John Chen is Chief of the Marine Section. Kevin Byrnes is Chief Marine Engineer. Rudy Ferro is a captain. All are with the Marine Section.

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