Tuesday, December 07, 2010

At Second Gowanus CAG Meeting, CSOs Remain "The Elephant In The Room"

EPA's Christos Tsiamis
CAG Facilitator Jeff Edelstein

NYC DEP's Chris Villari

Last night, the second Gowanus Canal Community Advisory meeting, lead by neutral facilitator Jeff Edelstein, took place at the Old American Can Factory. Since the last time the CAG met, the Operating Procedure, Real Estate/Financing and Water Quality committees had formed and had, in turn, gotten together for an initial work session.
The CAG session started with a brief overview of the Committee meetings by Edelstein.

The Operating Procedure Committee had a very productive initial meeting yesterday morning. The members started the critical work of developing a charter to create a framework for how the CAG will work. Issues such as a mission statement, decision-making, membership and external relations will all have to be hammered out. The group is hoping to be able to propose a charter to the full CAG by February, with ratification of the charter by April/May.

The Real Estate/Financing Committee met on November 23rd to discuss core issues directly related to the Superfund process. Among the issues that will be investigated are financing, insurance, bulkheads, property rights, zoning, the 100-year flood levels and most importantly, the link between development and public health on the uplands. 

Christos Tsiamis, EPA's Gowanus Canal Project Manager, answered some of the committee's questions at last night's meeting. See video below.

The Water Quality Committee had their initial meeting on November 29th. The members identified several issues that relate directly to the water quality. Amongst the more important concerns are the flow between the upland sites and the canal, potential re-contamination of the canal after clean-up, water quality classification, and the Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) that continue to flow into the Gowanus.

Most of the committee's discussion centered on the need to address the CSOs as part of a comprehensive clean-up of the canal. Whereas the EPA Superfund will address the toxic sludge at the bottom of the canal, the CSOs that continue to pour into the Gowanus are the responsibility of the NYC Department of Environmental Protection. The committee questioned if the EPA could take over the clean-up of the CSOs as well.

At last night's meeting, the working relationship between the
EPA and the DEP came up again. Asked by Jeff Edelstein if he wanted to address some of the questions about CSOs that had come up at the Water Quality Meeting, DEP's liaison Chris Villari ruffled quite a few feathers and certainly got off to a rather bad start by declaring: "We are not here to talk about the CSO issue, but the Superfund issue." (Great Job as a liaison, Mr. Villari!)
You can see the video clip of response below.

Christos Tsiamis took the opportunity to clarify that the EPA is very much involved in a discussion regarding the CSOs and that there has been much communication between agencies. In fact, the EPA, the DEP and NYS Department Of Environmental Conservancy will be meeting to discuss the issue on December 15th. See his response below.

Christos Tsiamis announced that the Gowanus Canal Remedial Investigation (RI) will be published in January 2011. The EPA will then hold a meeting for the wider community to give a comprehensive presentation of the findings.

**For full disclosure, I am a member-at-large of the Gowanus Canal CAG, as well as a member of the Water Quality, Real Estate and Archeology committees.


Anonymous said...

But isn't Chris Villari's "separate Federal Act" one that also falls under the EPA's responsibility?
Seems kind of absurd to compartmentalize the clean water/ clean canal thing in this way unless you are looking to establish a separate power structure.
It's EPA, and EPA; and the Gowanus community and the Gowanus community in both cases. Why not one CAG?

Anonymous said...

Nothing grows from the contaminated sediment so fish are not ingesting the toxins. The kayakers are are exposed to the contaminated water - not sediment. Why waste money on removing sediment at Canal bottom when it causes no harm?

Why can't the EPA superfunds first help stop CSO discharge? After that's addressed, then lets talk sediment.

Anonymous said...

What is a CSO?

Katia said...

It is the Combined Sewer Overflow, or in more detail, waste waters from our toilets and kitchens combined with storm waters from the streets, sidewalks and roofs.