Wednesday, May 30, 2012

At Tuesday Night's Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group Meeting

Jeff Edelstein, Gowanus CAG Facilitator
Tracy Bell And Terry Thompson representing National Grid

The Environmental Protection Agency's  Community Advisory Group for the Gowanus Canal met on Tuesday night at the Brooklyn Historical Society.
Natalie Loney, EPA's Community Involvement Co-Ordinator gave a brief overview of the Superfund schedule. She explained that Christos Tsiamis, Remedial Project Manager for the Gowanus Canal,
and Walter Mugdan, EPA District 2 Director,  will be presenting the Proposed Remedy for the Gowanus Canal Clean-Up to the National Remedy Review Board in Washington, D.C. the week of June 18th.

The National Remedy Review Board is "a peer review group that understands both the EPA regional and headquarters perspectives in the remedy selection process."
Generally, the Board reviews Superfund remedies that meet a certain financial threshold.  Natalie Loney explained:  "The Board wants to insure that there is consistency throughout the region.  They are looking at this project because of its size and its scope. They may ask questions or clarification, but they will not approve or disapprove the remedy.  That is not their function."   
She added: "The remedy that Region Two is presenting is technically sound.  We are very comfortable with it.  We are fully behind this proposed plan."
After the presentation to the Board, Christos Tsiamis, will have time to respond in writing to any questions raised during the meeting. Once this process is completed, Region 2 will be able to move forward with putting out the Gowanus Superfund  Remediation Plan and will most likely present it to the community at a public meeting by September.

The CAG has written its own letter to the National Review Boards.  It reads:

Dear Mr. Tsiamis and Members of the National Remedy Review Board,
A. BackgroundThe Gowanus Canal is located approximately 2 miles from Manhattan. Its watershed covers approximately 1700 acres (2.65 square miles). Based on the 2010 census, almost 150,000 people of all levels of economic stature live within the watershed. Of these, an estimated 44,000 people live within a 10 minute walk of the Canal. Further, there are many underserved families living in close proximity to the Gowanus Canal. Recent planning initiatives, including the City’s New Waterfront Revitalization Program and the Hudson-Raritan Estuary Restoration Plan support the community’s vision for increased public access, ecological restoration, and recreational use of the public waterways.
The Gowanus Canal community uses this waterway for many recreational, commercial, industrial, artistic, educational, and scientific purposes. These activities may result in ingestion of Canal water and direct and indirect contact with Canal water and sediments by adults, children, and pets. Existing on-water recreational uses such as sustenance-based fishing, canoeing, kayaking, boating, and diving may result in primary and secondary contact. There are 2 public access points located along the Gowanus Canal and Bay and a total of 19 locations at which public streets either cross or terminate at the canal. These street-ends are routinely flooded by canal water during rain showers under high-tide conditions. Commercial activities including barging and scientific research may also result in secondary contact.
Gowanus is emerging as a creative district that is home to many artists and artisans and is a cultural and entertainment destination for City and non-City residents and tourists. The Gowanus landscape attracts artists from around the world to use as subject matter. It is because the canal is so intensely used in such a variety of ways that it is important to ensure that public health be protected under these circumstances. As awareness is raised about the Canal, public access both to, and into, the Canal improves, and redevelopment pressures increase, more and more people will continue to take advantage of the unique on-water recreational and explorational opportunities it presents.
B. Comments
The CAG supports the selection of a comprehensive remedy that protects human and ecological health and improves water quality consistent with the current and projected future use of the Gowanus Canal. To that end, the CAG has passed the following resolution:April 2012 Sediment Resolution to EPA
The Gowanus Superfund Community Advisory Group fully supports the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in its finding that New York City’s Combined Sewer Overflows are a significant contributor of harmful sediment and Superfund regulated PAHs and metals to the canal. The CAG takes the position that the total elimination of CSOs into the Gowanus Canal is the only acceptable solution to the problem.
The CAG asks that the EPA, under their Superfund authority, take the necessary measures that will ensure protection of the proposed remedy from ongoing CSO sediment solids deposits and the release of PAHs and other toxins.
In summary, the CAG believes that the Superfund cleanup represents a unique opportunity to conduct a comprehensive cleanup of the Gowanus Canal and that it would be a waste of time, money, and energy to select a remedy that does not completely prevent recontamination by CSOs.
Thank you for the opportunity to submit these comments.
Sincerely,The Gowanus Canal Superfund Site Community Advisory Group

On Tuesday night, the CAG also passed the following resolution:

"The Gowanus CAG asks that the cleanup of the Canal, including the Superfund Remedy, should be consistent with and advance current and future possibilities for ecological restoration, shoreline softening, riparian buffers, expanded wetlands, habitat restoration, and public access pursuant to the goals of the Hudson-Raritan Estuary Restoration Plan and the community's emerging vision for the waterway.We understand that some steel bulkheads may be necessary but that contiguous steel or new wooden bulkheads would not be compatible with the above stated goal."

Finally, the CAG voted and welcomed Rich Kampf and Jennivere Kenlon as full members.


Anonymous said...

I don't understand this: "We understand that some steel bulkheads may be necessary but that contiguous steel or new wooden bulkheads would not be compatible with the above stated goal."
So is CAG saying we need it or not? Doesn't the canal need new bulkheads to prevent overflowing and to mitigate contamination?

Katia said...

What the CAG intends to convey is that we understand that in some places, like along the former MGP sites, steel bulkheads are needed to hold back contamination.
However, the CAG hopes that in some places, there is a possibility of shoreline softening, which would support the community's vision for ecological restoration.

Anonymous said...

The EPA will need to condemn and take ownership of Canal property before they can dictate shoreline construction.

Anonymous said...

@1:29 - that vision/statement did not come from the EPA - it was crafted by some of the CAG members. It was made clear to the CAG members by the EPA rep who was there that this was not under the purview of the EPA cleanup.