Friday, December 04, 2009

No Listing Announcement, But Lots Of Science (Sans Politics) At EPA's Informational Meeting Regarding Gowanus Canal

Team EPA Region 2

Walter Mugdan, EPA District 2 Director

Christos Tsiamis, Remedial Project Manager for the Gowanus Canal

Natalie Loney, EPA Community Involvement Coordinator

If many in the audience at P.S. 32 last night thought that the EPA was going to make a statement on whether the federal agency would list the Gowanus Canal as a Superfund site, no such announcement was made.
Right from the start, Walter Mugdan, EPA Region 2 Director, stated that there would be " no Aha! moment tonight. Instead, we will talk about the work already going on."

And for the first time, the community was able to listen to EPA's Region Two Team talk science and field work in regards to the heavily polluted Gowanus Canal without Mayor Bloomberg's politics muddying the water. And what a pleasure it was.

Regardless of the fact that the canal has not been listed yet, Mugdan explained that his team has the money and the legal authority without the listing to proceed with work "up to the step before placing a shovel into the ground." He added: "No one has asked us to stand down or slow down. The goal is to get the work going as quickly as possible."

Christos T
siamis, Remedial Project Manager, gave a thorough presentation on the work currently underway and the various steps in the scientific field work which will be performed in the next few months.
Though much data already exists on the canal, the EPA will conduct further tests to evaluate human risk and the effects of the pollution on wildlife.
The field activity will include:

*A Bathymetric survey (measuring the various depths of the canal)

*Surface sediment sampling (EPA will sample the top 6 feet of the 10-12 feet of industrial sediment)

*Surface water sampling

*Air sampling

*Fish and crab sampling

*Sediment core sampling

*Sampling of CSOs and other outfalls ( measuring the contamination from the city's combined sewer overflow into the canal as well as determining the origin of over 200 pipes that lead into the canal)

*Groundwater sampling and water level measurements

Mr. Tsiamis concluded by saying that he had come to this country to study, had stayed and made New York City his home and sees his work on the Gowanus "as an opportunity to give back." As a public servant, he has the community's interest in mind. "We take this work very seriously."

Natalie Loney,
Community Involvement Coordinator, gave information on the Community Advisory Group (CAG), a public forum for community members to present and discuss their needs and concerns related to the Superfund decision-making process. She also briefly discussed the difference between the Technical Assistance Grants (Tag) and the Technical Assistance Service For Communities (TASK) which both provide technical assistance and education to the community to explain and interpret EPA's reports, site conditions and proposed clean-up decisions.

During the presentation, the audience listened intently. It was clear from the questions directed at the EPA staff, that the community had done its homework and was amazingly well informed.
I would venture to say that most in the audience were firmly behind the agency's listing of the Gowanus Canal as a Superfund site. If there were any nay-sayers in the crowd, they did not speak up last night.

Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez who was one of the first politicians to come out in support of the listing, receives a thunderous round of applause, when she said that this needs to be a transparent process. Later, when the merits of New York City's "modified Alternative Superfund Plan" were discussed, Nydia stated in no uncertain terms that the city did not have the money to undertake any thorough clean-up.

State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, who also was an early supporter of the Superfund listing, expressed her complete confidence in the EPA and was cheered by the crowd.

Ultimately, it is up to the EPA's headquarter in Washington to make the final decision. One thing is for certain: there is ample scientific evidence that the Gowanus canal should be listed.
It remains to be seen if Mayor Bloomberg's politics and shameless lobbying against the Superfund designation will pollute what should be a scientific decision.

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Anonymous said...

EXCELLENT RECAP, Katia. Last night's mtg. was very informative. Though no official announcement was made regarding listing, it was invigorating to be introduced to the EPA's Gowanus Team, to get a clear explanation of the procedures they are and will be doing, to see them just picking up the ball and running with it. Also great to see and hear the support from Congresswoman Velazquez and Senator Montgomery.

Anonymous said...

Who's in charge here?

The EPA's headquarters’ will decide on the listing without any accountability? EPA's HQ has decided to spend even more tax dollars with no authorization from congress? What's been spent and what's the budget for this project?

We're increasing our national debt for a few kayakers who want the convenience of kayaking in Brooklyn? Shame on us!

Anonymous said...

12:28 It's not about a few kayakers. You are obviously not concerned about the extreme toxicity of the canal, and I have no idea where your thinking is coming from. You would rather the City clean up? City has no money. Or just leave it as is? Shame on YOU!

Anonymous said...

Thank you Katia.
As always, the EPA was great. I am so glad that Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez and Senator Velmenette Montgomery were there.

Anonymous said...

While Velazquez was hanging out in Brooklyn sucking up to the EPA, her counterparts were actually working in Washington. Hopefully, we can convince one of them to relocate to Brooklyn so we can finally get some Federal assistance to clean our waterways:

Washington, D.C. – Representatives Donna F. Edwards (D-MD), Russ Carnahan (D-MO), and Steve Driehaus (D-OH) today introduced the Green Infrastructure for Clean Water Act of 2009. Green Infrastructure is a stormwater management technique that preserves the natural hydrology of an area to help reduce stormwater runoff from hard surfaces.

Anonymous said...

The EPA gave a presentation that clearly demonstrated that they are the professionals to do this job.

The fact that the EPA team is organized and working on the Gowanus, without any delays, was reassuring to the community.

The openness and honesty of the team was to be admired--something don't often see in other government agencies who have come before this community on Gowanus Cleanup issues before.

I was impressed to learn that the Superfund program has the full range of programs that will allow the team to address the multiple toxic inputs into the canal in, and do so in an environmental comprehensive way.

Glad to have the EPA on board here!

Anonymous said...

8:57 EPA IS Federal Assistance to clean up our waterways. And Congresswoman Velazquez and her aide Dan Wiley have been real champions of Gowanus cleanup. You sound a bit confused and disgruntled, but you make little sense.

Anonymous said...

8:57 - Yvette? Is that you?

Anonymous said...

((((Green Infrastructure for Clean Water Act of 2009. Green Infrastructure is a stormwater management technique that preserves the natural hydrology of an area to help reduce stormwater runoff from hard surfaces.)))

Anyone who thinks that the water quality problems of the Gowanus can be solved by "preserving the natural hydrology of the area" is either very much out-to-lunch or trying to drum up some political spin tactic; neither will get us to clean water in the Gowanus.

Anonymous said...

I think what Yvette is suggesting is that her collegues should be assisting the City's compliance with the Clean Water Act and help us stop contributing to Canal pollution.

It's stupid to have the EPA clean the Canal and then just dump into it again via a dozen CSOs.