Wards Island WPCP Laser Scanning

Wards Island Wastewater Pollution Control Plant (WPCP) is the second-largest New York City Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP) wastewater treatment plant. It serves over one million people in the western Bronx and Upper East Side of Manhattan. Due to the decommissioning of an existing shared heating plant, the DEP needed to construct a new steam heating system. Heat plays a major role in the wastewater treatment process by stimulating the growth of the anaerobic bacteria that consume organic material in the plant sludge. 

The majority of the new steam lines were installed in a network of existing underground utility tunnels, over one mile long. Normally, plans would have been drawn up on paper showing the general path for the new lines. During construction, it would be the contractor's responsibility to adjust the routing in the tunnel if other pipes or equipment were in the way. 

At an old facility like Wards Island, which was constructed over 70 years ago, decades of modifications have resulted in inaccurate and incomplete records of which utility lines exist in the tunnels and where they are located. A contractor would likely encounter many conflicts during construction, thus delaying the project and resulting in unforeseen and potentially substantial additional costs. 

Erdman Anthony integrated laser scanning technology with traditional surveying to build a three-dimensional (3D) CADD model of the tunnels and their contents. Through the integration of GPS control, surveying, and laser scanning, Erdman Anthony conquered DEP's 6,000 linear feet of tunnels with pipes and provided a model that is dimensionally and spatially accurate within a quarter of an inch. 

The 3D model allowed engineers to lay out the proposed pipes right in the model itself, providing accurate locations and pipe lengths. Essentially, they “built” the new system in virtual reality.  

The project was designed through the New York Power Authority's (NYPA) Energy Services Program—a funding source for projects with energy-saving potential. With the use of survey laser scanning and 3D modeling, Erdman Anthony added cost-saving potential to this publicly funded project. Time was critical; for every moment between the decommissioning of the existing heating plant and the completion of new construction, operation of a temporary, higher cost system was required. Efficient construction provided greater cost savings to both NYPA and New York's residents.

Project Accolades

  • Project Awards
  • Project Articles
  • 2011 National Recognition Award - American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC), National
  • 2011 Diamond Award - American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC), New York

Project Details


New York, NY


New York City Department of Environmental Protection



Project Contact

Bryan Merritt, PSM/LS
  • Bryan Merritt, PSM/LS
  • 561-753-9723 x 6017
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