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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Cool Fix for a Hot Planet- NYC Blues

Air Date: Week of
NYC's green roofs. (Wikipedia Creative Commons)

With a wastewater system that is over a century old, New York City is losing the battle against overflow contamination of the East and Hudson Rivers. As Living on Earth’s Honah Liles reports, the city’s mayor is proposing to add a new weapon to the fight: blue and green roofs.


GELLERMAN: It’s Living on Earth, I’m Bruce Gellerman. Coming up – a science sleuth solves the mysterious case of lead in campus water coolers. But first, this Cool Fix for a Hot Planet from Honah Liles.


LILES: New York City is about to get the blues—blue roofs that is. Under a new plan proposed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the city hopes to combat storm water runoff by using blue and green roofs.

New York’s wastewater system is over a century old. Storm water and municipal sewage are funneled into the same pipes, and these days, the volume sometimes exceeds the capacity of the wastewater treatment plants. When it does, the wastewater overflows into the East and Hudson Rivers.

NYC’s green roofs. (Photo: Wikipedia Creative Commons)

Blue and green roofs capture rainfall, and allow it to be gradually released over time. To do this, blue roofs use drainage pools while green roofs grow ivy or grass. And covering the city in these roofs will do more than reduce sewage overflow into the rivers. The vegetation and gardens on green roofs harbor diverse species of insects, fungi and plants, while also promoting food production. They could even help lower the city’s ambient temperature in the summer. The water collected on blue roofs can be recycled and used for irrigation and sidewalk cleaning.

New York aims to reduce wastewater overflow 40 percent by the year 2030. Perhaps the colorful roofs will earn the city a new nickname—the Big Green Apple. That’s this week’s Cool Fix for a Hot Planet. I’m Honah Liles.

GELLERMAN: And if you have a Cool Fix for a Hot Planet, we'd like to know it. If we use your idea on the air, we'll send you a shiny blue Living on Earth tire gauge. Keeping your tires properly inflated can save you big bucks in fuel.

Call our listener line at 800-218-9988, that's
800-218-99-88. Or email coolfix – that's one word – coolfix at L-O-E dot org, or post it at our Facebook page – PRI’s Living on Earth.

And remember, you can hear our program anytime on our website, L-O-E dot org or get a download for your MP3 player.

There you’ll also find pictures and more information about our stories. And we’d like to hear from you: You can reach us at comments @ L-O-E dot org. Once again, comments @ L-O-E dot O-R-G.



Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC

PS 118 Pilot Study: Green vs. Blue roofs


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