EPA Holds Another Meeting on the Gowanus Canal Project

Posted on 06. Dec, 2009 by in General, Jeremy Caplan, Urban

On Thursday night, representatives from the EPA presented plans for the environmental studies they are beginning on the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn.

The EPA's Walter Mugdan and Christos Tsiamis answer questions from the public at a December 3rd meeting on studies planned for the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn.

The EPA's Walter Mugdan and Christos Tsiamis answer questions from the public at a December 3rd meeting on studies planned for the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn.

Officials outlined a schedule for their remedial investigation and feasibility study, which will determine the extent of the problem with the canal and help the EPA to determine whether to designate the project as a Superfund project.

Walter Mugdan, the EPA’s Region 2 Director of Emergency and Remedial Response said he couldn’t pinpoint a time for when a decision might be made.  He did say, however, that it would not come until the results of the feasibility study were presented.  The results are estimated to be ready sometime in 2012.

Many of the citizens expressed concern about City involvement.  City and EPA officials have debated which entity should be responsible for the cleanup ever since the site was selected in April as a potential Superfund project.  The City revealed an alternative cleanup plan in July.  Mugdan said that though the Mayor had contacted officials in Washington, the decision would be made based on science and not politics.

Bette Stoltz, the executive director of the South Brooklyn Local Development Corporation was unsure.

“It’s not what the people who have dinner with the mayor want,” she said.

Before a decision has been made, the EPA must do extensive studies on the Gowanus Canal.  Christos Tsiamis, the Project Manager, said the agency plans to take deep core samples of sediment at the bottom of the canal, water samples, and air samples from air above the water.  They will also examine any pipes that lead to the canal to determine the source of the pipes and whether they still contribute pollution to the canal.  Wells will also be constructed so groundwater samples can be taken nearby to determine if polluted water has seeped out of the canal.

Several public officials were present at the event, including U.S. Representative Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) and State Senator Velmette Montgomery (D-Brooklyn) as well other local politicians and their representatives.  Both spoke briefly at the meeting, thanking the EPA for holding the event.

“I have been convinced that we are moving in the right direction.  The community should feel good about the possibility that we will be left whole,” said Montgomery.

The next public meeting on the project is tentatively scheduled for late January.

Click here to visit the EPA’s website for more information on the project.

By the Numbers:

1-18 feet: The range of depths of the Gowanus Canal

$350-450 million – The estimated cost of the cleanup

1869: The year the canal was opened

$1.3-1.4 billion – The yearly budget for the Superfund program

6-8 months: The time it will take the EPA to determine a plan and remedy for the canal after the remedial investigation and feasibility study are complete

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2 Responses to “EPA Holds Another Meeting on the Gowanus Canal Project”

  1. lois

    07. Dec, 2009

    There is an error in the information given here. The investigation work that the EPA will continue with does not need to be done “before” a decision is made.
    What is going on here is that the EPA has decided to proceed with the Gowanus project “as if” it were listed. However under the law, they can only go as far as doing the investigation and cleanup planning until a Superfund Listing would be required by law to proceed with the actual cleanup work.

    The story here is that THE EPA IS PROCEEDING WITH THE GOWANUS WORK AS IF IT WERE ALREADY LISTED AS A SUPERFUND SITE.

  2. anne.byrnes

    08. Dec, 2009

    But the problem with your argument is that they are not proceeding with any work. They’re only sampling and determining the extent of the problem. Mugdan said in the meeting that it’s still possible that they will designate it as a Superfund alternative project, but they won’t know which route they’ll choose until they’ve done more sampling and found out more about the site.

    Here’s a link to the EPA’s handout from the meeting for more information: http://www.epa.gov/region02/superfund/npl/gowanus/communityupdate12-09.pdf