Eileen Mahoney NYC DEP
NYC DEP Jim Muller
Gary Reilly, CB6 Environmental Committee Chair
Last night, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection gave a lengthy presentation in front of the Environmental Protection committee of Community Board 6 on the findings of the Environmental Protection Agency's Gowanus Canal Superfund investigation and Feasibility Study relating to the Combined Sewer Overflow (CSOs.)
Strangely, it felt as if DEP was giving the same presentation that EPA had given much more effectively to the community many times before. But it quickly became clear that the agency's agenda was very different from the EPA's.
Named a Potentially Responsible Party (PRP) by the EPA for its role in contributing hazardous toxins to the canal and for allowing CSOs to continue to discharge into the Gowanus, New York City is still refusing to accept its obligation under Superfund. Instead, the City is stalling for time by any means possible.
During the presentation, DEP representative Eileen Mahoney and Jim Mueller spoke of the difference between the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), also known as the Superfund program and the Clean Water Act.
CERCLA gives the EPA the power to regulate hazardous toxins that can cause harm to human health or to the environment, but it does not regulate bacteria and dissolved oxygen levels, which are regulated under the Clean Water Act under the authority of New York State.
Mahoney and Mueller told the audience that the City recognizes that CSOs need to be addressed, but
according to DEP, it has not yet been determined that the CSOs are contributing chemicals to the canal at levels that constitute unacceptable risks under CERCLA.
"The first step that you have to demonstrate before you are going to propose a remedy for the CSOs is that you have to identify that there is a problem. We have not actually gotten to that point for chemicals yet. The EPA has not yet proven that."
Mahoney went so far as to cast doubt on EPA's scientific findings. "This is not a criticism of the EPA, but there were some technical problems." Mahoney added slyly. "There were inconsistencies with the methodology used by the EPA in certain tests. This called into question the [EPA's] results."
She continues: "If we go forward with a solution that is based on bad science. It won't get you a resolution to the problem."
Bad science? Really? It would seem much more likely that the City, as a guilty party, is twisting the data to get away with doing as little as possible. So far, the EPA is the only agency that has shown that they are committed to cleaning up the Gowanus Canal.
All New York City has ever tried to do is to kick the problem down the road. How very, very shameful.