Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Gowanus CAG Off To A Good Start After First Meeting Last Night

Gowanus CAG's Neutral facilitator Jeffrey Edelstein with EPA's Walter Mugdan

Walter Mugdan during his presentation

Picture 1






Lucy De Carlo of CORD and Marlene Donnelly of FROGG


On Tuesday night, the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group (CAG) met for the very first time at the Old American Can Factory at 232 Third Street to lay the groundwork on how to structure the CAG, how to work together and how to best exchange information amongst its 57 members, the local community,  the Environmental Protection Agency and other pertinent government agencies involved in the clean-up of the extremely polluted  Gowanus Canal. Jeffrey Edelstein, the Neutral Facilitator who had been chosen by the communities impacted by the Superfund site in May, asked the CAG members to briefly introduce themselves and their affiliation.  Commenting on the unusually large size of this diverse group, Edelstein said: "Well, this is Brooklyn.  This is a unique situation."  He then asked Walter Mugdan, Director of the Superfund Program for the US Department for Environmental Protection's Region 2, to give an overview and update on the progress made.  

Walter Mugdan explained that there are three characteristic concerns about the Gowanus Canal.  First, the environmental concern for the polluted land surrounding the canal, secondly, concern for the water quality in the Gowanus and thirdly, the mud or sediment at the bottom of the waterway.  The Gowanus Canal was placed on the EPA's National Superfund Site list because of this highly toxic sediment. 
The water quality and land remediation, however, are the responsibility of New York State's Department Of Environmental Conservation (DEC).  The  NYS DEC had asked the federal Government to step in to deal with the sediment.
"We have a work sharing arrangement with DEC." Mr. Mugdan said." All these jobs need to be done."
Mr. Mugdan then went on to explain the clean-up process. (see chart on top)
The first step, the Remedial Investigation (RI), an assessment of the nature and extent of the contamination as well as the associated health and environmental risks, has been completed ahead of time. Walter Mugdan praised Christos Tsiamis, EPA's Region Two Project Manager in charge of the Gowanus Canal.  "Christos has done the most amazing job to move the work at a much quicker pace."  A report draft will be released by December 31st, 2010.
The next step in the process is to complete a Feasability Study (FS), a determination of the treatability and development of clean-up alternatives for the site. Mugdan expects the Feasbility Study to be done in draft by the end of 2011.
A proposed clean-up plan, which identifies a preferred remedial alternative for the site will most probably ready by 2012, at which time the community will have 60 days to comment.
"If I were a betting man, I would bet that we will be dredging a lot of muck out of the canal" Mr. Mugdan said.
Mugdan estimates the entire process to take about 10 to 12 years. "We will be together for a long, long time" he told members of the CAG.

After his presentation, Mr. Mugdan took questions from both the CAG members and the audience.  One important issue, the relationship between the EPA, the DEC and the New York City Department Of Environmental Protection (DEP), came up a few times.  There was concern about the contamination from the Combined Sewer Overflow (CSOs) into the Gowanus Canal.  Though the DEP is currently working on improving the system, the work will only reduce the CSOs by 34% at most.   Asked if the EPA would consider taking over the remediation of the water quality since the DEP's plan will not even come close to meeting the criteria of the Clean Water Act, Walter Mugdan answered that right now, his agency does not feel that it is necessary though he acknowledged that the DEP's plan is not a total solution.  "There is always a chance. We have the authority to do so."

Asked if the Gowanus Canal will ever be "swimmable and fishable", Mugdan shook his head. "Not in our lifetime, but the risks can be significantly reduced."

***Please also take the time to read Found in Brooklyn's excellent post on last nights meeting:  Gowanus News: First C.A.G Meeting Recap.



Anonymous said...

what a waste! Feds will spend millions of our tax funds and Canal won't event be safe for fishing? Why dredge? The fish don't consume canal sediment because nothing grows in it - address the CSOs instead!

Katia said...

Why a waste?
It shouldn't be one or the other. Why not go for it all and finally remove the health risks that our community has been exposed to for decades?