Friday, May 20, 2011

"Star Of The Gowanus": An Official Superfund Clean-Up Surface Sediment Sample Now On Display At Proteus Gowanus

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Christos Tsiamis, EPA Region 2 Project Manager for the Gowanus Canal
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The "Star Of The Gowanus", a sample of toxic surface sediment from the Gowanus Canal
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EPA's Tsiamis handing the sample to Eymund Diegel and to Tammy Pittman of Proteus Gowanus
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Eymund Diegel placing the specimen in a secure glass enclosure
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A small Gowanus Canal surface sediment sample, collected between Sackett Street and DeGraw Street on February 2011 as part of the Environmental Protection Agency's Remediation Investigation of the polluted waterway, will be on permanent display as part of Proteus Gowanus' Hall Of The Gowanus exhibit.
The "Star of The Gowanus," as the sample has been humorously named, was handed to local resident and urban planner Eymund Diegel by Christos Tsiamis, EPA Region 2 Project Manager for the Gowanus Canal on Thursday morning. The sample was quickly and carefully placed in a secured glass display case.
A "Caution" sticker on the sample warns in no uncertain terms of the toxic nature of the sediment. The primary contaminants that have been found in this black sludge are:
*Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH's)
*Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
*Metals (barium, cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, nickel, silver)
*Benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylenes (BTEX)
*Non-aqueous phase liquid (NAPL)
The contaminants are the results of decades of industrial pollution.

The idea for the "Star of The Gowanus" exhibit came from Eymund Diegel, who has been working with Proteus Gowanus to archive artifacts from the canal's past. Diegel reached out to the EPA to ask the federal agency to donate a sample of the sediment so it could be preserved for future generation.
Diegel plans to use the exhibit to inform and challenge local students. Next to the sample of the toxic sludge, he has placed common, seemingly benign household products available at any local hardware store, which pollute our environment and cause health risks. Diegel has also displayed a broken I-Pod with its Lithium Manganese battery, which was found along the shores of the Gowanus. The parts and the battery are a danger to the environment just as much as the toxins in the canal.

Yes, Diegel argues, the sample of the sludge from the Gowanus Canal is hazardous and represents decades of unchecked pollution. However, everyone needs to be aware of the pollution we create today, which is equally harmful to the environment and to our future.

I would like to thank Eymund Diegel, Christos Tsiamis and Tammy Pittman for allowing me to witness the event.

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1 comment:

Gowanus said...

Cool depiction of the sediment location as it changed over time!

Also a cool juxtaposition of the sediment and their contaminant source items!

The exhibit is an eye-opener, reminding that toxic substances we use in our homes make their way into very sensitive environments, like our harbor, especially when we do things like wash them down the drain. Many of the things that have toxic aspects to them, like batteries and solvents, can be designed and used in a safe way in our homes, but once discarded into the environment can create unnecessary hazards within the ecosystem.

To understand the sources of some contamination in the canal, all you have to do is watch the video posted on this blog this past fall, where sewage pipes dumped huge amounts of unknown waste and garbage debris scattered across the water. Lets hope that the DEP can start to understand the connection too and take necessary action to stop this cycle of environmental degradation.