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SuperFun on the Gowanus Canal

2011 April 11


By Kasia Broussalian

The Gowanus Dredgers, a small volunteer organization that is dedicated to providing the public information and access to the Gowanus Canal waterfront, canoe downstream the Gowanus Canal. Running a stretch of 1.8 miles through Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn, New York, the canal was recently added to the National Priorities List and officially became an EPA Superfund site in March 2010. This has paved the way for a scheduled cleanup process of the decades-old contamination. This picture was taken during the Gowanus community’s “SuperFUN Party,” an awareness event hosted by the Dredgers in order to stir up support for the cleanup of the canal. I shot this picture on top of a bridge, near sunset. The juxtaposition between the beauty of the light reflecting off the water, and the old factory buildings, gave me a feeling of nostalgia; of grit and grime from decades past, beautiful despite their neglect. The Gowanus Canal Superfund site is unique because of its level of community involvement and support for the cleanup. Specifically, the Gowanus Dredgers have logged over 2,000 canoe trips throughout the past season, and hope that an increase in the waterfront’s popularity will prompt the local community to become advocates for the canal’s revitalization and cleanup.

About the author: Kasia Broussalian is a public affairs intern and multimedia journalist in New York City. She has interned with EPA since 2010.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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4 Responses leave one →
  1. Susan Konvit permalink
    April 11, 2011

    Unbelievable! Canoeing on the Gowanus is a Health Risk! Between the “decades old contamination” and the massive sewage problems, No One Should Be Allowed on this WaterWay. No One!! The Rhode Island Contingency that has supported the designation of the Gowanus Canal as a Superfund Site cannot believe that New York City adn New York State would place development desires over the realistic health issues of their constituency. And we are Shocked that the EPA would publish this information nation wide!!!

  2. armansyahardanis permalink
    April 11, 2011

    How Many Times, Here, To Be Like Gowanus Canal ?

    Amazing if our rivers like it that’s arranged. Need more hundreds years for recoveries most of them. Nice to see canoeing on Gowanus Canal…..!!!!

  3. Natalie Loney permalink
    April 11, 2011

    I’m Natalie Loney, EPA’s Community Involvement Coordinator on the Gowanus Canal Superfund site.

    EPA conducted an extensive remedial investigation of the Gowanus Canal, in part, to determine the human health and ecological risks from exposure to contamination in the canal. We determined that canoeing on the Gowanus Canal does not pose a threat to human health. http://www.epa.gov/region02/superfund/npl/gowanus/ri_docs/Gowanus_RI_Report_Text_combined.pdf

  4. clarissa permalink
    April 12, 2011

    Natalie if the EPA is saying that the Gowanus Canal sediment is highly toxic, and that the Gowanus Canal water is also highly toxic then how in the world can canoeing be considered “safe”? A NYC fireman not too long ago fell into the water in an emergency rescue situation and he had to be hospitalized after swallowing a mouthful of Gowanus Canal water.

    The Gowanus Canal is one of the most contaminated waterways in our entire country as you well know. Water often touches people riding in canoes, some of whom are often children! Also when one pulls the boat out of the water one gets the water on one’s skin. And canoes can tip over causing people to swallow water like the fireman did.

    I too am very surprised and also alarmed, even that our government would call the Gowanus Canal highly toxic, yet allow canoes on it. Especially after the remediation report! Would you all put your own children in small boats on that water? I seriously doubt it. Neither have I seen any of our NYC politicians out in canoes on the Gowanus Canal: not our mayor; not our Borough President; not our Councilman! And not their kids either.

    I can better understand larger boats on it, like tug boats or motor boats, but canoers always are so close to the water, it would seem like a no-brainer to say that canoeing on the water is most probably hazardous! Your statements seem to imply the exact opposite! Shouldn’t the general public be WARNED at least? That makes sense to me, even if the EPA were thus erring on the side of caution. I think signs near any canoeing sites should state the risks so that people who visit the Canal from out of town can be educated and warned before loading their kids into the canoes. As it is it, it looks like the EPA is actually endorsing the idea of having canoes on the Canal.

    There should also be many signs near the Canal warning the fishermen who catch fish there regularly to NOT eat the fish and/or bring the fish home to their kids and families to eat because many still do! Fishermen still consider the highly contaminated waters of the Gowanus Canal fishable!

    OY. OY.

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