Tuesday, February 12, 2013

EPA Discusses Proposed Clean-Up Plan For Gowanus Canal In More Detail With Community Advisory Group

Christos Tsiamis, Remedial Project Manager for the Gowanus Canal
Natalie Loney, EPA Region 2 Community Outreach Coordinator
Brian Carr, EPA Region 2 Legal Council
Jeff Edelstein, facilitator for Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group

Many of the members of the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group (CAG) had attended at least one of the public meetings held in late January by the Environmental Protection Agency Region 2 on the Proposed Remediation Plan for the polluted waterway.

On Monday night at PS 58, the CAG had an opportunity to ask Christos Tsiamis, EPA's Remedial Project Manager,  more detailed questions and to delve into more detail.

The discussion focussed on three particular points:
*the 5th Street Basin
*The contamination and remediation at Thomas Greene Park and Douglas Street Pool, that were built on an old Gas Manufacturing Plant and the proposed Combined Sewer Overflow retention basin for the site.
*the proposal of using a particular Red Hook site for staging work related to dewatering dredged material. In addition, if the community agrees, the EPA is proposing the construction of a Confined Disposal Facility (CDF) to treat and store the least contaminated dredge collected from the lower part of the Gowanus Canal.

Here are some of the clarifications provided by Christos Tsiamis on those three points.

The 5th Street Basin.

As part of the Proposed Plan, the First Street Basin will be dredged and reclaimed as part of the canal. Members of the CAG wanted to know why the 5th Street Basin, which was filled between 1953 and 1964, was not going to be dredged as part of the clean-up.

Tsiamis explained the ground water and soil contamination at the two basins is distinctly different. The First Street Basin has much, much higher levels of contamination and causes a much greater risk. It was also found at depth that would cause a risk of re-contaminating the bottom of the canal after the clean-up.   "We have not seen the same at the 5th Street Basin," Tsiamis added. "There is contamination at the 5th Street Basin. The basin is one of six upland sites we have referred to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation for further investigation."


Douglass Greene Park and Pool And Proposed Retention Basin

Douglas Greene Park and the pool at Douglass Street were constructed over a former  Brooklyn Union Gas Manufacturing Plant (MGP), which operated on the site from 1879 to 1929.  Today, the land underneath the park is still heavily contaminated with coal tar.  Some of this free liquid tar is moving towards the canal.  National, Grid, which bought Brooklyn Union Gas/National Grid  in 2006, is now responsible for the remediation.  The work will be done under NYS Department of Environmental Conservation supervision.
Some members of the CAG expressed concern about the swimming pool, which most certainly will have to be removed.
"This park is part of the Superfund site. You have a pool that's sitting on coal tar,"  Tsiamis stated.  "The pool was placed on the most polluted part of the canal."
Considering the nature and the extend of the work that will need to be done to remove the coal tar, the pool cannot stay.  "I don't think that children should be around when the work is being performed," he added.

As part of the Plan, EPA has suggested building a retention tank underneath the area of the swimming pool to mitigate the Combined Sewer Overflow issue that needs to be addressed as part of the clean-up.
The retention tank would allow the storage of excess water and sewage that now flows into the canal during rain events to be stored for one or two days until it can be pumped to the sewer treatment plant for treatment.
Tsiamis has proposed this particular location for a retention tank for a few reasons:
*The largest outflow, which is responsible for much of the raw sewage into the canal, is at the head of the canal at Douglass Street, near the park.
*The park is one of the only open pieces of land in this densely populated area.
*The land is already owned by New York City.
*The CSO issue needs to be address to avoid recontamination of the canal after the Superfund clean-up.
Tsiamis explained that the retention basin would be "controlled construction" to remedy an "uncontrolled situation."

1928 photo of the former MGP site at Douglass Street, where Thomas Greene Park is now
Original Sandborne map of the MGP .  Green line indicates online of the entire plant
Detail of what is now Thomas Greene Park
Douglas Greene pool

Dewatering Staging Site and proposed Confined Disposal Facilty in Red Hook

Once the actual work of cleaning the Gowanus Canal starts, the sludge at the bottom of the canal will have to be dredged.
In order to de-water the dredge, a staging area is needed.  The EPA has scouted for a suitable location and has identified a site by Columbia Street in Red Hook, which belongs to John Quadrozzi of GBX.
Since it is ideally situated at the bottom of the canal,  the dredge can be transported there by barge, limiting truck traffic through the neighborhood.

In total, an estimated 600,000 cubic yards will needs to be dredged and dewatered.  Most of the very toxic material from the top and the middle of the canal will then be shipped off site for treatment.
The EPA has proposed to stabilize the least toxic material (about 200,000 cubic yards)  from the bottom part of the canal at the facility in Red Hook by mixing it with cement, which will turn it into regular concrete that is neutral and not harmful.
One option, which the EPA is exploring is to build a Confined Disposal Facility on underwater land with filling right owned by  GBX.  The stabilized sediment material would be placed in this CSF.
(Imagine a huge concrete tub, in which the treated material would be placed and capped.)
All work would be done by an expert qualified contractor hired by the EPA.  The agency would also put restrictions on the land gained from building a CDF and would regularly inspect it.

On February 13, the EPA will be in the Red Hook community to discuss in more detail the specifics of the Proposed Plan and the proposed CDF. That meeting is scheduled to begin at 6:30 PM at P.S. 15, located at 71 Sullivan Street in Red Hook, Brooklyn. The public is welcome.

Christos Tsiamis was clear that the facility will only be considered if the community wishes.  If residents object, there are other options.


Potential location for Confined Disposal Facility in Red Hook
Similar press will be used to dewatered dredge
Liquid from de-watering process will be treated.


Anonymous said...

Tsiamis needs to clarify what residents he's anticipating may object to siting the CDF as no one lives near that location. Is he anticipating objections from the residents using the pool? The EPA holds these meetings in winter months so that pool users cannot be enlisted.

Katia said...

I think that the timing of the public meetings are related to the release of the Plan and not timed in winter "so that pool users cannot be enlisted."

Who in their right mind would object to coal tar being removed from under the pool.

Anonymous said...

perhaps the same people who
wouldn't want the stench of million's of gals in a sewage tank sited under their community pool..

Anonymous said...

Over Red Hook most folks had no idea about the meetings or the proposed Gowanus sludge dump over near the Grain terminal. Not sure why this plan is even on the table at this point considering it's in a flood zone next to the ball fields and one of the largest housing projects in NYC. The fact that they would also fill in waterfront and turnover the land to a concrete plant owner with numerous environmental violations seems reckless. Most residents I've spoken with are firmly against this plan. Tsiamis should rethink this proposal.

Anonymous said...

it just seems that the only people EPA is listening to are the few loudmouths who want to move the problem in their litle community to other neighborhoods

Anonymous said...

Seems to be a distinct strategy going on here: don't listen to what the EPA explains, claim that the EPA hasn't given enough explanation, then claim that the removal of contamination will burden a community. And certainly do not acknowledging that the existing contamination is already a burden on the community. Do these people really not want the EPA to carryout a cleanup?

Right now, Red Hook has free-flowing contamination throughout the lower canal region and it is washing up on the shores of Red Hook. The EPA wants to take RED HOOK'S very own contaminated sediment and render it solid and harmless, no longer free flowing in their very own neighborhood.

What would be motivating some to make the people in Red Hook fearful of a process to contain their currently free flowing contaminated sediment?

Anonymous said...

Hmm, what would motivate Red Hook residents, like me, to not support dumping toxic waste into the ocean next to the ballfields where my children play? Wow! What a question! Here's a better question: why can most of the waste be transported away to be properly treated but some it has to be dumped in Red Hook thereby extending the industrial site belonging to a toxic polluter who has unpaid fines for dumping toxic sludge into the ocean?

Anonymous said...

In regards to the previous comment.The residents of Red Hook are not against the cleanup, but we are against the sludge being processed next to our ball fields and homes. Also the EPA is not giving any real specifics . We've asked the questions but are being told it's all in the planning stages.If you attended last nights meeting at PS15 you might have a different opinion. Also filling in waterfront property and letting a concrete plant owner use it to expand his operations would certainly not be a benefit to our community. The EPA also a has an alternative for the waste that doesn't involve Red Hook.The fact that it's also in a flood zone also needs to be considered. Fact is we weren't given sound answers to the many questions asked at last nights meeting. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/11/john-quadrozzi-toxic-sludge-developer-in-gowanus-could-owe-up-to-20-million-in-environmental-violations_n_2277032.html

Anonymous said...

To the individual who says they are from Red Hook: Where did you hear of any plan to do what you suggest, "dumping toxic waste into the ocean next to the ballfields where children play" ?
Who ever is telling you that hasn't taken the time to understand what the proposed actions are all about.

The only thing "dumping toxic waste into the ocean next to the ballfields where children play" is the present day flow of water from the canal that is mucking up the harbor and the shores of Red Hook.

Anonymous said...

I don't expect many in Red Hook will have faith in the EPA. Part of the problem is that the EPA person in charge of this plan can't speak about it with a straight face. He is evasive, can't make eye contact, repeats himself constantly and has the demeanor of a man very much uncomfortable with what he being asked (forced) to do. Also he insists there "zero" risk. How can a scientist speak about zero risk when discussing transporting toxic waste, mixing it with cement, and then dumping it into the ocean all in an area that just had a devastating flood? Let's also remember that the EPA has stood silent in the face of Fracking, strip mining, pig excrement dumping, wtc dust, and many other toxic practices which it has deemed to be safe. So, yes, clean the Gowanus - but do the job the normal way, not with weird deals involving profiteering polluters!

Anonymous said...

re: Red Hook, ya'll already have an invading army of Municipal Solid Waste trucks nobody else cares about so what's a little more garbage? "Funny" how all the white (of course) media blathering over "soccer tacos" neglects to mention this little neighborhood detail, or the fact that it's largely accepted because it's mostly project people who live nearby.

Regardless, excellent post, Katia.

And oh yeah, Quadrozzi is a mafia outfit but I'm sure most of the old-timers here know that and shrug. (I'd rather the Lucchese Family than the fucking Toll Brothers, I'll say that.)