Students and teachers of the Spence School looking at the Gowanus
A group of students from Spence, a private school on the Upper East Side, visited the Gowanus Canal area yesterday morning as part of a school-wide field day to get to know the city better. As their classmates visited other neighborhoods, these seventh to twelfth graders toured Proteus Gowanus, the Old Stone House, the Lyceum, met with the Gowanus Dredgers and stopped at One Girl Cookies on Dean Street where they tried some of the bakery's famous whoopie pies.
Of course, a tour of the Gowanus area would not be complete without a lesson on the canal, its history and its recent listing by the Environmental Protection Agency as a Superfund site. For this part of the tour, the students were joined by Natalie Loney, EPA Region 2's Community Involvement Coordinator for the Gowanus Canal.
Ms. Loney spoke of the waterway's historic significance, its industrial past, the resulting contaminants and their impact on the environmental. She explained how the Superfund program works, what lead to the canal's nomination and the findings of the recently released Risk Assessment Report. She touched on the complexity of a clean-up that involves toxic sludge at the bottom of the canal, coal tar that leaks into the waterway from upland sites and the sewage that gets released into the Gowanus from the city's antiquated sewer system after heavy rains.
When she told the students that some in the community referred to the Gowanus Canal as "Brooklyn's Venice", the girls chuckled.