February 2017: A FLOATING ISLAND FOR ENGLISH KILLS
In 2016 the EKP collaborated with the Newtown Creek Alliance (NCA) on a design to install constructed wetlands to the English Kills tributary. The EKP borrows from existing models and practices currently employed along Newtown Creek: Whale Creek, Dutch Kills and No Name Creek.
The EKP-NCA collaboration yielded a design similar to the NCA’s Living Dock, which continues to exist as both a rare and clean habitat (milk crates) for small marine life and a functional boat dock. The purpose of repeating this pattern was to employ the NCA’s prior experience to ensure its feasibility. The EKP concept is also about half the dimensions of the living dock. However, the EKP commits more space to habitats. We call ours “The Floating Island.”
Existing case studies of floating islands for bio-remediation have taken place in such areas as Fuzhou, China for untreated commercial wastewater and sewage or in West Virginia for filtering acid mine runoff and wastewater treatment.
While many islands fabrications are used for pond gardens, landscape and remodeling projects, their benefits arrive from the root and substrate matrixes that form on the submerged side of the islands. A root matrix become filtering system for the creek so that harmful and beneficial microbes can attach themselves.
Disease carrying bacteria such as ecoli, entercocus (our human gut) and toxic microbes are abundant in Newtown Creek water. A floating islands can act like a filter or sponge for the harmful contaminates in the water. Plant roots from spartina plugs would grow through and underneath a porous, bio-substrate. Underwater matrix of roots and substrate provide a surface area for beneficial microbes to attach themselves. Microbes pull, absorb and break down bacteria and toxic particulates. Roots, which also pull water born pollutants, release much needed oxygen and proved cover and surface area for beneficial microbes and marine life to thrive. Island surfaces provide a new habitat for birds and other air-born wildlife. Floating islands become a sustainable and natural system to filter polluted water and create oxygen in an oxygen depleted creek. Mechanical and man made systems, such as pumping air through industrial air-tubes in the creek create more problems than solving. Air bubbles from pumped air pick up the bacterial deposits lying in the sediment of the creek and release them into the air we breathe. Rather than building extensive intertidal zones (which would require earth moving machinery and reinforcement of the bulkhead walls) along the vertical edges of Newtown Creek, the EKP project become modular, mobile floating wetlands.
Our version commits more of the basic footprint to constructed wetlands (island or floating wetlands) and minimizes the dock portion. It’s H shape provides 4 bays with trays placed inside each.
The experiment consists of utilizing 4 different stretched substrates: Hydroponic felt, polyflo bio-filter material, burlap and polythylene geo-textile. Each bay is a removable lattice of biodegradable materials and substrates that support and contain spartina plugs and ribbed mussels. Spartina plugs would be planted between the lattices with ribbed mussels placed at the base of the sprouts. Roots would expand under each tray and provide shelter for beneficial microbes and marine life. The project will test whether one substrate can sustain itself and the living organisms best and eventually released to moor along other bulkhead areas, without being confined to its berth. A successful “Floating Island” project can be expanded to speculate how wetlands can extend horizontally across the surface of the water and throughout the length of Newtown Creek’s vertical bulkheads. If it can survive in English Kills’ static and polluted water, then it holds promise for sustainability in the other tributaries.
2015: THE HANGING GARDENS OF ENGLISH KILLS - We have proposed to the MTA (at their suggestion), which owns the bridge, a system of hanging gardens in English Kills “The Hanging Gardens of English Kills.” Hanging containers, with perforations. In addition to having the City fix an ineffective sewage system, these hanging gardens can serve, help clean the water by bring clean soil and new salt marsh grass and filter feeding organisms to serve as a filter to absorb harmful bacteria. Mussels are an excellent and current small animal source for eating and cleaning bacteria in NTC. They can be planted in the suspended garden to assist bio-remediation. Here is a before and after shot of the south side of the railroad bridge leading the NYC Sanitation Dept Waste Management Facility.
Here is the north side before and after of the MTA North side Railroad bridge leading into the NYC Sanitation Dept. Waste Management Facility.
Here is the north side aerial shot of the same.
The south side "Cove" experiment before and after picture. Our aim is to test the effectiveness of the man-made wetlands as a filtering system. We would test the water both inside and outside the cove with clean land fill berms to support the salt marsh.
The MTA also owns the empty parking lot at the CSO end of English Kills. I propose that we tear up the asphalt, with the help of the community of Bushwick, to let it be what it once was, a salt marsh, green and open space. The ENGLISH KILLS NATURE-WALKWAY can serve as open space with an elevated bridge to allow for public access and a place for seeing the view and contemplation about the nature that once existed here. It can also serve as future NYC storm protection, a natural sponge for heavy rainfall. Instead of a hard siphon for more street petroleum based runoff this can be transformed to a nature park. But it could potential be a park that can assist in creating a place for community with elevated gardens, contemplation, beautification and NYC storm preparation. How will this play out will tell in the coming months?
CEASING THE TIRE GABION APPROACH
Originally proposed as how the ENGLISH KILLS PROJECT will construct the man made wetlands, the “tire gabions” is now being re-considered. There is growing evidence that creating wetlands with used tires could cause more problems than it is supposed to remediate. Leaching toxins from tires into the environment has been a consistent problem when early designers, activists and environmentalist attempted to create coral reefs, wetlands, landscapes and erosion prevention structures. Studies show that tires leach Benzene, Carbon Black and other carcinogens and hazardous toxicants. According to research from Bucknell University, rubber leachates from car tires have killed “entire aquatic communities of algae, zooplankton, snails and fish.” I have included several LINKS for review.
As of this date 9-8-14, the ENGLISH KILLS PROJECT will cease the production of tire gabions. Instead the focus will be on experimenting with geo-textiles that do not leach. More information to come.