Friday, April 22, 2016

This Coming Monday, EPA To Hold Community Meeting To Explain Proposed Agreement With New York City On Siting Of CSO Tanks That Are Part Of Superfund Clean-Up

Looking towards the top of the Gowanus Canal.
Double D Pool At Thomas Greene Park, EPA's preferred site for CSO retention tank
234 Butler Street: New York City's preferred site for the 8-million gallon CSO retention tank
242 Nevins Street, second privately owned site eyed by the City
On April 14th, the Environmental Protection Agency Region 2 released a statement regarding a proposed agreement the Agency has reached with New York City on the location of two sewage and storm water retention tanks that are an important part of the Superfund clean-up of the Gowanus Canal.
The tanks are combined sewer overflow (CSO) control measures meant to significantly reduce overall contaminated solid discharges to the Canal.

The proposed administrative settlement agreement and order allows New York City to locate the larger of the two tanks on New York City’s preferred location on privately-owned land at the head of the canal that the City needs to first take by eminent domain, which will add cost and time to the overall clean-up of the Gowanus Canal.
EPA will hold a public meeting to explain the proposed agreement on Monday, April 25, 2016, 6:30PM at P.S. 32 located at 317 Hoyt St., Brooklyn, NY

Before finalizing the agreement with New York City, EPA has granted the community a 30 day public comment period.  I do hope that everyone will take the time to attend and to send a comment prior to the EPA finalizing the agreement.

Why is this meeting so important?
For months now, the EPA and the City have been negotiating the siting of the larger of the two tanks.
EPA Region 2 suggested placing the 8-million gallon tank underneath the Double D pool at Thomas Greene Park near Nevins Street. The Agency reasoned that the pool needs to be removed anyway because it sits on the former Brooklyn Union Gas Fulton Municipal Manufactured Gas Plant which needs to be remediated. Also, the parkland is already owned by the City, which would save the acquisition cost.
The NYC DEP, on the other hand, preferred to site the 8-million gallon tank on privately-owned land along the canal, adjacent to the park. The sites in question are 234 Butler Street and 242 Nevins Street.
The City reasons that it wants the tanks in closer proximity to the rest of its Gowanus infrastructure at the head of the canal. It also wants to build a head-house for the mechanical elements related to the tank. The above ground head house envisioned by the City would take up 1/4 of Thomas Greene Park if built there, DEP argues. The neighborhood is already underserved as far as green spaces is concerned according to the City. Using the privately owned parcels would allow them to maintain the park as is and add additional parkland on those purchased parcels.

Building the tank on private land is going to cost the City upward of $125 million for land acquisition alone according to its own estimate. It will also delay the entire Superfund clean-up by a minimum of four and a half years, time the City estimates it needs to go through condemnation proceedings.
At a community meeting in January, Region 2 Superfund Director Walter Mugdan admitted that, "the chunk of time [because of these legal proceedings] would be longer in almost all certainty than if the tank went to the park location."
It remains clear that EPA still sees the Park as the best location for the tank because it will save time and money.
"I still believe that is pretty accurate," Mugdan told the community in January. "Since the pool needs to be dismantled anyhow, it seems like a pretty logical location to put the CS0 tank."
Further, the EPA team responsible for the environmental remediation design for the Gowanus Canal Superfund has been clear that building the tanks on the City's preferred site immediately adjacent to the waterway creates some very difficult engineering challenges.

Why Would EPA Cave To The City, One Of The Parties Responsible For Polluting the Canal?
EPA Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck

When it comes down to it, it appears that the City was being able to turn the potential loss of one portion of Thomas Greene Park into an environmental justice issue that swayed EPA Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck into giving in despite the advice of her own team.

Perhaps, Administrator Enck should have been informed that the NYC Parks Department has described Thomas Greene Park as 'underutilized', that the City wanted to close the DD pool five years ago because of lack of funds, that the pool is only open two months out of the year and that NYC was very much aware of the fact that there was liquid coal tar oozing under parts of the park and that it would, at one point, need the site would need to be remediated.

It would certainly behoove the Gowanus community to remind Administrator Enck that parkland preservation is NOT an EPA issue, but exposure to environmental contamination is.

The longer the Gowanus Superfund clean-up takes, the longer the community is exposed to it. THAT should be Administrator Enck's priority.

What's in it for the City?
NYC Department Of Environmental Protection Commissioner Emily Lloyd

The City has used the Gowanus Canal as an open sewer for well over 150 years. One administration after another has done the very least it could to find a  real solution to bring relief to the Gowanus Community.  Simply put, New York City has shirked its responsibility for decades by kicking the can down the road.  Not only did the City oppose the nomination of the Gowanus Canal as a Superfund, it  is now using the siting of the tanks to delay even further.

This delay tactic will cost the City dearly. As mentioned before, acquisition costs for the land is estimated at $125 million. That may not even include legal costs for condemnation proceedings. 

On March 11, 2016, NYC DEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd presented DEP's Preliminary Four-Year Capital Plan in front of New York City Council Committee on Environmental Protection.

Commissioner Lloyd's DEP budget for 2016-2019 reads:
"Gowanus Combined Sewer Overflow Retention Tanks: To significantly reduce the combined sewer overflow discharges into Gowanus Canal, $510 million was added in the Plan to secure land, design two CSO tanks and construct one of the two planned CSO tanks adjacent to the Gowanus Canal."

Yes, that really reads $510 million dollars. And yes, if you read very carefully, that amount of money only covers the construction of "one of the two" CSO tanks.
(Notice that no money seems to have been set aside for the second tank in this four year budget.)

Considering that the EPA has estimated the entire cost of the Gowanus Canal Superfund clean-up to cost $500 million, why would it cost the City $510 million to construct just one of two CSO tanks?
Councilman Brad Lander, whose district includes most of the Gowanus Canal, does not seem to have a problem with this large sum of money.  He seemed happy about it when he tweeted about it on his Twitter feed during the budget meeting on March 11.

So, there you have it.  The agreement between the City and EPA on the siting of the tanks allows DEP to inflate the cost, will mean the taking of private land in Gowanus, and most importantly, will expose the community to contaminants longer than absolutely necessary.

Yes, we may get some extra parkland out of the deal, but that would be the priciest parkland ever constructed in New York City's history. 

So please, make every effort to attend the meeting to express your opinion.

To read the agreement between the EPA and New York City, please visit:


De-Tox Me said...

Dear Katia,
As usual you have knocked one out of the park regarding this complex and highly toxic clean-up. I mean that in more ways than one. The Double D pool issue has been as muddied as the coal tar it sits upon and NYC political forces have lost sight of the real environmental justice issue: the fact that this highly contaminated EPA Superfund site is situated in the HIGHEST DENSITY area in the country of ANY Superfund Designated site.

And thousands of NEW people are becoming NEW RESIDENTS along this site as we speak because developers have been given permission to provide hundreds of new units for them. Are these people being properly educated? Doubtful.

I am wondering if you could help me with something?
Can you tell me WHERE should we write to the EPA and how we mail our letters?

What is the deadline? I am so disgusted that I barely feel like writing a thing. Can you tell me: Is anyone listening at all?

Katia said...

Hi De-Tox Me,
Comments will be accepted by EPA until May 16.
Additionally, comments can mailed or emailed to: Walter Mugdan, U.S. EPA Superfund Director 290 Broadway, Floor 19, New York, N.Y., 10007

Canal B said...

DeBlasio is going to use the $510 million to overpay for the land and get lots of contributions from the landowners in return.The Pool is an excuse so that a developer can get the pool property to build on after they clean it up and get it cheap. Canal will be an open sewer for many years after all the developers empty all the toilets into the Gowanus.
Brad Lander is like DeBlasio, He will agree to anything to get dollars and votes.He wants to be mayor but Cuomo won't anoint him. We will see what happens after DeBlasio gets indicted by Preet Bharara.