NYC DEP division chief Kevin Clarke
CB6's Environmental Protection Chair Gary Reilly
At last night's Community Board 6 Public Safety and Environmental Protection Committee, Kevin Clarke, division chief for the NYC Department Of Environmental Protection gave a presentation and an update on the Gowanus Canal Facilities Upgrades which began in September 2009 and will be completed around June of 2013.
According to the DEP, 300 million gallons of Combined Sewer Owerflow (CSO's), made up of 30% storm water and 70% combined sewer waste, currently flows into the canal every year. It is hoped that the project will reduce CSO's into the Gowanus by 34%.
The upgrade has two major construction components:
1. Upgrades to the Gowanus Canal Flushing Tunnel System
In order to perform tunnel rehabilitation repairs, the one-mile tunnel, built in 1911, was shut down two months ago and will stay off-line for about 26 months.
Three new submersible pumps will be installed to increase the flushing tunnel flow capacity from approximately 154 million gallons a day to 215 mgd. This fresher water from the Buttermilk Channel will be pumped into the head of the canal to improve water quality. During the construction, a temporary pumping system which has been installed at the end of Douglass Street will oxygenate about 10 million gallons of water a day and distribute it throughout the Gowanus Canal through 24" pipes.A new Forcemain will be constructed through the Flushing Tunnel to collect some of the Combined Sewer Overflow at the canal head and pump it directly to the Red Hook Water Pollution Control through the Columbia Street sewer.
2. Upgrade to the Gowanus Pumping Station
The reconstruction work on the Gowanus Wastewater Pumping station, which pumps wastewater flow through the new Force Main Plant will increase the reliability and pumping capacity from 20 million gallons to 30 million gallons a day.
The work also includes the installation of a Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO's) screening system which will retain and reduce the "floatables" which might otherwise make their way into the canal.
According to Mr. Clarke, the DEP has been cooperating with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's ongoing investigation, providing historical documents and sharing data.
After the presentation, CB6 Environmental Protection Chair Gary Reilly directed audience questions to Mr. Clarke. Bette Stolz and Marlene Donnelly, both of Friends And Residents Of Greater Gowanus disputed the DEP's assertion that only 300 million gallons of CSOs flow into the canal. That number, Stolz and Donnelly pointed out, is based on the year 1988, when a total of 41" of rain fell on the New York City area.
"Wouldn't it behoove the agency to look at the data from the last 22 years?" said Bette Stolz.
Marlene Donelly urged the EPA to consider that the last five years have been substantially wetter than 1988.
" In 2009, we had 65" of rain in New York City, in 2008, it was 64" and the year before that, it was 68".
With sea levels rising and the predicted increase of extreme weather patterns, it does seem strange that the EPA is relying on outdated rainfall figures and not looking towards the future. If the current rainfall trend continues, many more millions of gallons of CSO's will be dumped into the Gowanus Canal.
Kevin Clarke, however, stated a few times that 1988 provided an adequate base-line.
See his full response below.
Rita Miller of CORD asked if the EPA has considered and figured future development in the area into their calculations as projects like the Atlantic Yards Arena will add to the CSO discharge into the Gowanus Canal. Here is Mr. Clarke's answer:
No doubt, the city is finally moving ahead with work that was mandated by the Clean Water Act decades ago. That is a good thing. However, it certainly feels as though not enough is being done to address the CSO issue. Using rainfall data from 1988 is rather laughable and makes the promised 34% reduction in CSOs seem very small.