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On a rainy mid-December weekday in New York City, underground pumps throughout the city were working hard to keep the subway dry, siphoning rainwater out of the tunnels and into the sewers.
The December 9 panel, hosted by the New York Academy of Sciences, was trying to make the Metropolitan Transit Authority more environmentally sustainable. Nearly the same amount of potable water, seven billion gallons a day, is used by the MTA for everything from keeping employees hydrated to washing subway cars. Cleaning all that wastewater and returning it to the drinking water supply would probably be prohibitively expensive, according to one panel member, Thomas Abdallah, the chief environmental engineer for New York City Transit. Geothermal systems work because a mere fifteen feet underground the temperature is about 55 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. In a pilot project begun in 2006, water pumped from the London Underground is used to cool Victoria Station, a major central London hub.
In New York, stations are neither heated nor cooled, as is painfully obvious to anyone on the subway platform in August or January.
Beyond the geothermal proposal, Abdallah said the MTA was considering using the water for landscaping and — if it’s clean enough — washing subway cars and buses, a solution that would help reduce that daily demand for potable water.


The groundwater recycling program is clearly in its earliest stages, and the MTA is still considering all its options. All comments are moderated, your comment will not appear on the site until it has been approved. While interesting, using Victoria station in London as an example is a terrible idea, I use this station multiple times a week and have done for several years. That said, if it can help, then it’s a cheap, enviromentally friendly way to make a differance.
Standing in Hoboken, we see that tonight the Empire State building is dressed in Blue and White for Hanukkah.
Up on the 40th floor of a building in lower Manhattan, a panel of experts gathered for a public brainstorm about how to put that water to good use. And though the process is in its early stages, the MTA engineers and consultants assembled far above the rumbling trains seemed inclined to use the water for geothermal heating and cooling.
A centralized solution isn’t ideal, he added, because water is pumped out of subway tunnels all over the city.


That constant temperature can be used to make hot summer air cooler, and to make cold winter air warmer.
A system like the London pilot could go a long way toward making the New York subway more comfortable. It’s not clear what will come next — an efficient use of groundwater is a long-term goal for the organization. Nearly the same amount of potable water, seven Billion gallons a day, is used by the MTA for everything from keeping employees hydrated to washing subway cars. By keeping water out of the sewers, a geothermal system would also ease the river and bay pollution that occurs every time there’s a heavy rain and storm water overwhelms New York’s combined sewage and drainage system.



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