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Gowanus Cleanup – EPA Lays the Gauntlet

2012 January 25

By Sophia Kelley and Elias Rodriguez

Everyone who’s ever seen the patches of rainbow-hued slicks on its surface or taken a whiff after a heavy rain knows that Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal is filthy. The canal is so filthy, in fact, that it was added to the Superfund list of the country’s most hazardous waste sites. Earlier this month, EPA released a study of the options for cleaning up the chemical contamination and last night a public meeting was held to discuss the investigation.

The newly completed feasibility study evaluates the technologies that could be used to clean up the canal, and will be used to develop a cleanup plan for the Gowanus. Last night, nearly 200 people attended a public meeting at the stuffy auditorium of Brooklyn’s P.S. 58. ATSDR, State, City and local officials also participated. The good seats filled early. A background discussion was followed by a comprehensive presentation of the seven remedial alternatives laid out in the study. The goal was not to choose a cleanup plan (that step will come later in 2012), but rather to discuss the “array of technologies” and options that are available to address the contaminated sediment in the canal. Slide after slide of charts, tables and graphs of information were punctuated by the occasional photograph of the canal and technologies that have worked at similar sites across the nation. The crowd gasped when a close up shot of a floating fish carcass popped up as a graphic reminder of what’s at stake. “Is that a whale?” asked a front bencher. “Disgusting,” proclaimed another audience member. 

EPA’s Walter Mugdan answers questions at last night's Gowanus Canal meeting.

EPA’s Walter Mugdan, the director of the Superfund program and Christos Tsiamis, the project manager patiently answered all the questions posed during the lively question and answer session.  “Who’s going to pay for all of this?” A: the parties responsible (24 entities and counting) for the pollution will pay. “What about water quality?” A: It’s important, but being addressed under the Clean Water Act, not primarily Superfund. “Will the City government live up to its obligations as a responsible party?” A: ‘We expect the City to do the right thing’ said EPA.  

After more than two hours the debate was concluded. Public participation is a vital part of the Superfund process and last night’s well informed and actively engaged crowd was proof positive that the EPA welcomes community involvement as part of the multimillion dollar cleanup of the Gowanus Canal.

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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10 Responses leave one →
  1. tony permalink
    February 12, 2012

    thanks for the info

  2. February 14, 2012

    About time! I lived near the Gowanus Canal 2 years ago and it was disgusting.

  3. Skeng permalink
    February 14, 2012

    People should take more pride in their communities, glad to hear there was a large active crowd willing to help.

  4. Hugo de la Haye permalink
    February 16, 2012

    Great to see the local public taking such an active part in the process.

  5. Ruby permalink
    February 21, 2012

    Its really great that people are coming up..Bravo..!!

  6. epoksi permalink
    March 20, 2012

    About time! I lived near the Gowanus Canal 2 years ago and it was disgusting.

  7. Daniel permalink
    March 25, 2012

    It will be exciting to see all the great changes that come to this area.

  8. zatari permalink
    May 3, 2012

    About time! I lived near the Gowanus Canal 2 years ago and it was disgusting…

  9. eddy permalink
    May 9, 2012

    Really good to see the local public taking an active part in this process.

  10. plcmitsubishi permalink
    March 24, 2014

    About time! I lived near the Gowanus Canal 2 years ago and it was disgusting…

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