Well, you have to hand it to our Councilman Bill de Blasio. He is hanging in there with his position that the city can do a better, faster job cleaning the Gowanus Canal than the Environmental Protection Agency.
Since he came out against the Superfund designation, he has not deviated from that position,though it seems rather clear that a large number of his constituents in Gowanus/Carroll Gardens are for the designation.
The letter above is his second one to the EPA regarding the listing of the Gowanus Canal as a Superfund Site. In his first letter in April, he asked the agency to answer a number of his concerns about the Superfund, such as timing, funding and litigation.
He also wanted to know exactly how polluted and dangerous the canal really was, a concern that he did nor seem to have when he supported the spot-rezoning of the Toll Brothers' Gowanus site from manufacturing to residential.
George Pavlou, EPA Acting Regional Administrator, send the Councilmember a long, detailed letter back at the end of May. Mr. Pavlou writes:
Please be assured that we share your desire to clean up the Gowanus Canal as expeditiously as possible. We believe that because of EPA's singularly powerful enforcement authority and almost three decades of experience addressing hazardous waste sites, including a number of sites with sediment contamination in EPA Region 2 alone, placing the Gowanus Canal on the NPL will greatly facilitate, not encumber, that goal. Superfund investigatory and cleanup actions need not slow or impede any of the ongoing efforts to restore and redevelop the area around the canal, since all of the necessary work can take place in tandem.
Obviously, that was not enough assurance for de Blasio. He sent a second letter on June 9th, expressing further questions about funding for the clean-up. He writes
My greatest concern is whether there are available resources to fully fund a timely clean up of the canal. At the recent EPA presentation given to the Community Board 6, Walter Mugdan, Director of Emergency & Remedial Response Division of the EPA, noted that the Superfund program is provided a total of approximately $300 million annually to help fund clean(ing) for
over 1,200 sites. Almost all of the funds are already devoted to sites that do not have any Potentially Responsible Parties (PRP's) and the EPA has yet to clarify how much, if any, of these funds will be provided to the Gowanus Canal clean-up. I am additionally concerned given the fact a clean-up of the Gowanus Canal will cost appropriately $400 million to complete, which is $100 million more than all the available funding for the nation's Superfund program per year.
The EPA is an enforcement-first agency and must, therefore, investigate to find every PRP before requiring them to comply with the clean-up. While it is possible that the PRP's will voluntarily agree to the clean-up, I am concerned that the litigious nature of similar clean-ups at the Hudson and Passaic Rivers point to delays for this project as well. These delays can be potentially avoided by using the city's plan.
We are both striving to reach the same goal to clean the Gowanus Canal up to EPA standards as soon as possible. Since I do not anticipate that exploring the City's proposal would delay the Superfund time line, I hope that the EPA will consider the City's plan and any other method for securing the necessary funding to address the clean up. My office will be reaching out to members of Congress to lobby for additional funding to support this critical clean up in a way that keeps our community whole and safe.
De Blasio's suggestion that EPA should continue to consider the city's plan is peculiar, considering that the city has yet to come up with a clear plan.
So far, the two presentations given by the city have been mediocre at best and leave more questions than they answer.
If de Blasio is so concerned about delaying the clean-up, may I suggest he move out of the way and let the EPA do its job?
The federal agency has already told him politely in their letter, that they have the experience, the science, the tools and the enforcement power to do the job.
The city does not.
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