Instances of backed-up sewer mains and flooding after mild to heavy storms have been on the rise throughout the city in recent years, so architect Rahul Shah came up with a way to put some of the overflow to an entertaining use.
After recently completing his masters from Parsons at the New School, Shah is perusing his graduate project research proposal to bring a swimming pool to the creek using treated groundwater and rooftop runoff.
Shahbegan work on the “Exorcise Pool” while a graduate student at Parsons at the New School. It utilizes runoff from rooftops and bioswales, which is then passed through a photobioreactor that uses algae to add oxygen back into the water.
The plan also involves UV treatment, a method of utilizing ultraviolet waves to eliminate toxic compounds, before using the water to fill a swimming pool.
“This cleansed water ends up in its ultimate resting place in the pool, and is part of the process where it can recirculate and get even cleaner,” Shah explained.
In the proposal, the light given off from the UV treatment portion of the facility will illuminate the pool at night, and it is strategically placed to shine down on the Brooklyn waterway.
“It’s about establishing a visual connection to Newtown Creek,” Shah said. “For good reason too; it’s definitely one of the dirtiest waterways in New York City and we kind of turned our back to it.”
While the Exorcise Pool is just a proposal, Shah is currently looking for support to make it a reality.
Assemblyman Joseph Lentol said he is interested in exploring new ideas for utilizing storm water runoff, and that a swimming pool might be the right approach.
"Finding innovative ways to deal with environmental problems, such as storm water runoff, is certainly something that can positively impact the community,” said Lentol. “But when you pair it with a public amenity such as a pool, the project is significantly more beneficial, and definitely cooler.
“I would love to see a project like this become a reality, but we also need to consider the safety implications that a project such as this might have," Lentol added.
With regards to the safety implications, Mitch Waxman, a historian with the Newtown Creek Alliance (NCA) said he is skeptical that the area chosen for the project is ideal.
“This is the concentrating point of all the white collection trucks of the Department of Sanitation,” Waxman said. “I’ve gotta tell you, I’ve been down there in a rowboat and the glands on my neck were swollen three days afterwards.”
While Waxman doesn’t agree with the project’s proposed location, he said he would be interested in learning more about the project.
“I think it’s a great concept, but I’d have to see how it works and the science of it being tested,” he said.