As work continues on an $8-billion program to build four jails replacing New York City’s Rikers Island facility, plans are being developed to potentially transform the East River island for wastewater treatment and resource recovery.

Jacobs Civil Consultants won a $2.9-million contract from the city's Dept. of Environmental Protection to study the feasibility of consolidating four aging upper East River wastewater facilities into one modern center, city records show. The study is expected to last through 2023.

The proposed facility could operate more efficiently than the existing ones it would replace, and produce fertilizer, non-potable water and renewable energy, DEP officials say. According to Jacobs, the facility could assist with the city's sustainability goals such as greenhouse gas reduction, carbon neutrality and energy efficiency.

“This is a transformational opportunity to consider how to drive social equity, redefine the city's landscape and create a legacy for NYC residents—all while providing a blueprint for how future water infrastructure projects can serve as catalysts for urban revitalization,” Gary Morris, Jacobs' senior vice president of people and places solutions, said in a statement.

DEP currently operates 14 wastewater resource recovery facilities across the five boroughs, which collectively treat 1.3 billion gallons of water daily and more during storms. The four facilities being studied⁠—Bowery Bay, Hunt’s Point, Tallman Island and Wards Island—are nearly 100 years old, use outdated high-energy equipment and are in need of significant work that will be challenging because of their limited space, officials say.

Preliminary drawings from Jacobs show conveyance tunnels from the four existing facilities that would converge at a pumping station on the northwestern side of the island. The sites of those existing facilities—all waterfront properties—could then be used for other purposes, according to Jacobs.

The Rikers Island jail is slated to close in 2027.

While the study is underway, so are the projects to build new borough-based jails in Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens. Construction on the parking garage for the future Queens jail site is in progress, according to the NYC Dept. of Correction. At the end of last year, then-Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the shortlist of firms competing to design and build the four jails.

Transformative Reform Group LLC, led by SLSCO and Sciame Construction, and Cauldwell Wingate 2022 Company LLC will compete for the Bronx project.

An RFP for the Brooklyn project will be issued to a joint venture of Lend Lease Corp. and Halmart International and to a team led by Tutor Perini Corp. RFPs for the Manhattan and Queens projects will be issued solely to a Gilbane Building Co.Alberici Corp. joint venture and to Leon D. DeMatteis Construction Corp., respectively.

City officials say they will have issued RFPs for all four projects by later this year.

In late 2018, existing juvenile detention centers in the Bronx and Brooklyn were redesigned and renovated to house minors who were transferred from Rikers, in accordance with a state law mandating that offenders younger than 18 be moved out of adult jails.