A Prairie Home Companion Segment 17 for April 5, 2014
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We're in New York, the city of eight million stories, where there's a broken heart for every light on Broadway, and the big story, if you ask me, is that the city mostly works pretty well. Water flows in, sewage flows out. Peak water usage is in the morning with people taking showers and baths and flushing toilets, and about 600 million gallons per hour get used in the peak hours, which is a little more than the flowage of the Hudson River. The water comes from three reservoir systems, the Delaware, the Croton, and the Catskills, which store a two-year supply, about 580 billion gallons, which will flow into the city by gravity, one and a half billion gallons a day, through Water Tunnel No. 1, built in 1917, or Water Tunnel No. 2, built in 1935. Both deep underground. They are now almost done with Water Tunnel No. 3, which was begun in 1970, which will enable them to shut down either Tunnel One or Two and make repairs if necessary. The sewage flows out. It used to be dumped at sea but that stopped in 1988. Now the sludge is separated. About 1,200 tons a day and it is used as fertilizer and added to soil.

About 16% of the trash collected in New York is recycled. The steel and aluminum and plastic goes to a recycling facility on a big pier in Sunset Park in Brooklyn; the paper, about 900 tons a day, is taken by barge to a paper mill on Staten Island, and the organic stuff is composted.

The city has a ways to go with recycling, but you visitors staying in a hotel, be assured that your sewage is being put to use and your water is some of the very best municipal water anywhere in the world, flowing from rivers and reservoirs as far as 120 miles away through big tunnels 500 feet underground, a river of clean water.