IT took seven years for workers to build the 8,558-foot Holland Tunnel in the 1920s. Bernard Daly and a team of 150 have spent the last four years digging three tunnels that together span 8,881 feet in the northern Bronx. And while the Holland Tunnel was built for cars, Mr. Daly’s tunnels are for something more basic: water.
The three tunnels will carry water to and from the Croton filtration plant, one of the most complex, costly and controversial construction projects in city history. The $3 billion plant, in Van Cortlandt Park, which is scheduled to be in operation by the end of next year, will filter and disinfect up to 30 percent of the city’s drinking water — from the city’s most polluted reservoirs, those in the Croton watershed east of the Hudson River. The plant’s main arteries — three water tunnels roughly 180 feet below ground — were carved, drilled and blasted out of rock more than a billion years old.
Water tunnels are measured by their timelessness. “City Water Tunnel No. 1 went on line in 1917, and that tunnel is still serving a big part of the city today,” said Caswell F. Holloway, the commissioner of the city’s Department of Environmental Protection, which is overseeing construction of the Croton plant. “Nobody’s been in there since it went on line.” (NYT)