Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Full Report On Tuesday Night's EPA Gowanus Canal Superfund CAG Meeting

Jeff Edelstein, CAG Facilitator
Christos Tsiamis, EPA Region 2 project manager for the Gowanus Canal  with Brian Carr, EPA Region 2 Legal Council
Christos Tsiamis

The Environmental Protection Agency's Gowanus Canal Superfund Community Advisory Group (CAG) held its general meeting at Mary Star Of The Sea housing on First Street last night.

Superfund progress report

Both Christos Tsiamis, EPA Region 2 project manager for the Gowanus Canal,  and Brian Carr, EPA Region 2 Legal Council, were in attendance and gave a Superfund progress report.

Tsiamis explained that the Remedial Investigation and the Feasibility study have been completed. Based on all the collected data and discussions with various parties, namely National Grid and New York City as well as members of the community,  Region 2 has prepared a plan for the clean-up of the polluted waterway. A prototype plan was submitted to EPA's National Review Board at the agency's headquarter in Washington.  "We are right now at the stage of putting together the Plan for presentation to the public and are hoping to put it out for comment to the community by the end of this year," Tsiamis stated.

The formal review process generally lasts about 30 days, but because of the size of the community and the anticipated number of comments, the period will most likely be extended.

At that point, Region 2 has to look at all the comments that have been submitted and consider them. After the plan has been refined, a final document called a Record of Decision will be prepared.

Tsiamis concluded: "We are right on schedule.

Polytechnic Institute of New York University Professor Maurizio Porfiri

Brooklyn Atlantis

Also on the agenda last night was a presentation of 'Brooklyn Atlantis', a project led by Polytechnic Institute of New York University Professors Maurizio Porfiri and Oded Nov. A team of graduate students in Mechanical Engineering and Computer Science has been working on a system of mobile instrumented buoys with wireless capabilities for data collection and environmental monitoring. As Professor Porfiri explained last night, the buoys would move about on the Gowanus Canal, powered by rechargeable batteries that use solar energy. Cameras mounted on the buoys will be taking photos above and below the water's surface.   Sensors will monitor water quality by checking temperature, dissolved oxygen levels, ph levels (and perhaps salinity and water flow.)   Photos and data will be downloaded to a website.

An important component of Brooklyn Atlantis is the participation of citizen scientists who will be able to access images on the computer, classify wildlife on photos as well as earn points for correctly identifying objects, access sensor data for different canal locations and compare results.

The project has been funded by the National Science Foundation. Professor Porfiri expects Brooklyn Atlantis to run simultaneously to the EPA clean-up of the canal.

More information about Brooklyn Atlantis can be found at

Leah Graziano of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
Chris Dorsoki of the NYS Department of Health

Public Health Assessment Of the Gowanus Superfund area

Chris Dorsoki of the New York State Department of Health and Leah Graziano of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) gave an overview of the role of their agencies and how they support the EPA and the Gowanus Canal Superfund site community.

Dorsoki and Graziano shared information about the Public Health Assessment that was prepared and the conclusions drawn from the Assessment.
Regarding the Gowanus Canal, it was found that swimming in the canal would harm people's health because of exposure to bacteria. Eating fish and crabs from the Gowanus was also a health hazard.

Dorsoki explained that a Public Health Assessment is not the same as a health study.  A few CAG members asked why such study has never been done in Gowanus, especially in light of the fact that the canal has been declared a Superfund.  Dorsoki said that a health study can take decades to complete.

After a brief discussion, Jim Vogel, representing NY State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, declared that the senator's office would formally request a study.

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