DontFlushMe Tests Its Sensors in New York City’s Cavernous Sewer System

by , 09/20/11

green design, eco design, sustainable design, DontFlushMe, CSO, New York Sewer, Steve Duncan, Undercity, Leif Percifield, wasterwater management, Combined Sewage Overflows

DontFlushMe helps educate New Yorkers about the consequences of sewer overflows. When water levels rise, the sewers become flooded and could overflow, flushing raw sewage into our city’s waterways, including the Hudson and East Rivers. The amount of overflow can be reduced should city residents hold back on their wastewater production — meaning refraining from flushing the toilet.

The project works by installing sensors in the sewer system, which notify users when water levels rise. Users have the option of being notified by text message, Twitter, a call-in number or by checking a website. Users can then let it mellow — reducing the output of Combined Sewage Overflows (CSOs) into our waters.

Percifield found on his recent trial run that the original prototype sensor was not strong enough for the thickness of the concrete of the sewer ceiling. A new, senor stronger will be installed in the next few weeks, reporting live data to DontFlushMe’s website. The exploration also gave insight into the complicated and hauntingly beautiful network of sewers that lie below New York.

Each year, 27 billion gallons of raw sewage is dumped into New York’s harbor. DontFlushMe helps New Yorkers take this problem into their own hands- stay tuned for progress in the next few weeks. Help support DontFlushMe with his fundraiser on ioby NYC.

+ DontFlushMe

+ Undercity

Images © Steve Duncan



  1. David Webster February 25, 2014 at 11:20 pm
    Is that for real? If that much raw sewage flows into the harbor, why don't they let us process our own waste through a waste gardening system? That's rediculous!
  2. Kelly Ruckert February 25, 2014 at 10:02 am
    If its yellow ya let it mellow - lit it sit If its brown away it goes - you flush straight away - unless you pop lid down close door and have good ventilation :)
  3. Tom Hart September 23, 2011 at 12:31 pm
    As for the do not flush me concept, I just inadvertently tested my bathroom as my wife was in the shower this a.m. After letting it site for 2 hours I flushed and 2 hours after that the bathroom still smells like s#$%. I can't imagine all but the most eco-conscious are going to let s#$% sit. Does anyone know if letting s#$% sit in the toilet is a health hazard? Cool pictures...honestly, how gross was it taking them.
  4. lazyreader September 21, 2011 at 9:33 am
    When ya gotta go, you gotta go. Forcing people not to flush. It's unfortunate that New York's sewer system is in such a state. In order to comply with federal and state laws regarding the filtration and disinfection of drinking water. The underground filtration plant is under construction in Van Cortlandt Park. While the Bloomberg administration originally budgeted the project at $992 million in 2003, an audit by the city's comptroller placed the actual costs at $2.1 billion in August 2009. Which shows that high density living is not necessarily efficient. It places a huge strain on antiquated supply systems and reconstructing them is a labor intensive, costly and time consuming effort. Maybe the private sector can provide a cost effective solution. In New Jersey they already have a pilot program to recycle tons of wastewater into fertilizer which they spread on a nearby golf course. The waste is fed to bacteria to eliminate infectious agents then cured (heated at high temperatures) to kill any pathogens. This stuff contains high percentages of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, carbon, and calcium. It is equal to many fertilizers and manures purchased in garden stores. The trick is ensuring it's safety.