Monday, September 30, 2013

A Monumental Day For Gowanus: EPA Releases Its Finalized Plan To Clean Up the Gowanus Canal Superfund Site


A copy of the Record Of Decision for the Gowanus Canal Superfund
(with various signatures from EPA embers and members of the community)
EPA Regional Manager Judith Enck
Christos Tsiamis, EPA Region 2 project manager for the Gowanus Canal, Brian Carr, EPA Region 2 lawyer, and Walter Mugdan, EPA Region 2's Director of the Division of Environmental Planning and Protection
Brian Carr, Natalie Loney, EPA Region 2 Community Involvement Coordinator, and Christos Tsiamis
Elected officials
State Senator Velmanette Montgomery
Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez
Assemblywoman Joan Millman
Borough President Marty Markowitz
Councilmember Brad Lander
Lizzie Olesker, Gowanus Canal Community Advisory member who read a statement for the CAG
Gowanus Superfund Community Advisory Group

This is a historical day for Gowanus. After 150 years of environmental abuse, which turned it into one of the most contaminated bodies of water, there is a plan to remediate the 1.8 mile toxic canal, and that plan has just been written into law.
As promised, and keeping with their initial timeline, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)just released the signed Record Of Decision (ROD) for the clean-up of the Gowanus Canal Superfund.

At a press conference held on the shores of the canal this morning ,  EPA Regional Manager Judith Enck was joined by her amazing Region 2 team, which worked so tirelessly towards this moment:
Walter Mugdan, EPA Region 2's Director of the Division of Environmental Planning and Protection, Christos Tsiamis, EPA Region 2 project manager for the Gowanus Canal, Brian Carr, EPA Region 2 lawyer, and Natalie Loney, EPA Region 2 Community Involvement Coordinator.

The ROD represents the blue print for the remediation. The clean-up will cost $506 million, last 8 to 10 years, and will include dredging of the toxic material, caping, controls to reduce sources of contamination from uplands, as well as removal of contamination from the 1st Street Basin. Most importantly, the ROD will address and control the flow of contaminated sewage solids from the Combined Sewer Overflow. The EPA is requiring that discharges from two major outflows be captured in retention basins. This will reduce CSOs in the canal by an estimated 58 to 74%.

Enck took time to thank the community for all its input. The agency received over 1,800 comments from the public after it outlined the various clean-up methods in its Proposed Remediation Plan, which was released earlier this year.  The comments were carefully considered to chose the final remedy.
For example, the EPA decided to pass on the option of remediating the least contaminated sediment in a facility in Red Hook after residents made it clear that they would not support it.

Several members of the EPA Gowanus Canal Superfund Community Advisory Group (CAG) were also present this morning.  Member Lizzie Olesker read the statement below for the entire CAG.
The Gowanus Canal is the first EPA Superfund Site in Brooklyn, making the announcement of this Record of Decision (ROD) an historic event for the 2.5 million people of our borough. The much needed cleanup of the Gowanus Canal is long awaited; and this Record of Decision comes as a firm commitment to the people of Brooklyn that the contaminates of the Gowanus Canal will be removed from our dense urban environment. The CAG looks forward to a detailed review of the ROD and providing ongoing input to those elements that will impact the community moving forward. 
Formed in 2010, the mission of the Gowanus Canal CAG is to be a forum for dialogue between representatives of all segments of the community about the federal Superfund clean-up of the Gowanus Canal and other related issues of concern to the community 
This EPA Record of Decision (or ROD) is the outcome of more than 3 years of extensive meetings and discussions with the community and the Gowanus Canal CAG. The Gowanus Canal CAG is by far the largest, and most diverse community group ever formed to work with the EPA on a Superfund site. The CAG, having arrived at a number of consensus resolutions on the canal cleanup, is grateful for the opportunity and role it has had in the process leading up to this announcement of the Record of Decision. The CAG provided consensus resolutions to EPA supporting the overall scope and approach of the proposed plan, while stressing a focus on ecological restoration and honoring the historical character of the canal. 
The CAG appreciates the EPA's attentiveness to schedules and time frames in reaching this ROD. We understand that the CAG, as a community engagement tool, will take on new roles as this process unfolds. The Gowanus CAG looks forward to continuing a robust exchange with the EPA, as design plans for implementing the cleanup that is specified in the ROD moves forward in a timely manner. The CAG is committed to disseminating information about the Gowanus Canal and engaging all area stakeholders in ensuring that community issues are heard and articulated to EPA and other agencies. 
Information and a calendar of meetings for the Gowanus Canal CAG can be found at The ROD will be discussed in detail at the next full meeting of the CAG on October 22, 2013.
As a resident of this community, I would like to thank the EPA Region 2 team for their dedication, their perseverance and all their hard work on our behalf.
Walter, Christos, Brian and Natalie, words can't adequately express my admiration. I hope you know what this day means to this neighborhood.

The entire Gowanus Canal Superfund Record Of Decision can be accessed here.


Margaret said...

Hooray! This is the most exciting gowanus news since I moved to Gowanus in 1984! Thanks for the recap Katia!

Katia said...

Yea, it's pretty amazing that we have reached this milestone.
After 150 years, we finally can envision a cleaner canal.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful day for Gowanus! Wonderful example of a community working with government to come up with a reliable plan to address environmental issues.
Thanks goes to Nydia Velasquez for keeping the gears of government working here in support of the community.

triada said...

Woo Hoo!

Anonymous said...

Its such Bullshit. Spending $506 mil on this after 150yrs. That money needs to go elsewhere in the community. Funny how the gentrification changed & now they're taking care of this stat. GTFOH

Gowanee said...

@9:18. Where do you propose this money should go in the community? Environmental health is not important?

Mark said...

oh yeah, anonymous! you are right!
1) that because it's been 150 years, they should just never clean it for some reason.
2) that the money should be directed to all the other superfund sites in the neighborhood.

you are a dumb stupid moron with fluff for brains.

Anonymous said...

10 years? Prediction:

On Oct.1,2023 we'll continue to be discussing the EPA's Superfund mandate that NYC Tax funds build the EPA's huge retention basins.

Sad day for the waterway ...

Anonymous said...

With the ROD, it would be indeed sad if NYC didn't actively do their part of this cleanup, because that ROD has given authority to the EPA to impose far more costly fines on PRP's (including the city) if they choose not to participate. So if we are still talking about all this in 2023, it will be because of the failed leadership in the city, and if you don't want to go down that road, make sure, as a voter, that you put city leaders in place who will facilitate what now must be done by law.
It is time the city put meaningful limits on sewage flow in our neighborhood--they have been promising that to us for decades but never delivering. The DEP continues to miss lead on the CSO issue, as they try to equate the sever CSO problems in Gowanus to the rest of the city, when their own pathogen data has shown that Gowanus has long surpassed all other locations in the city with pathogen levels, decade, after, decade.

Anonymous said...

well at lease the discourse remains civil?!? The fact is that the half billion dollars EPA has estimated does not include the City's contribution to build 2 large sewage tanks in the neighborhood. Count on city water ratepayers coughing up another 2-300 million for those. whether one thinks spending this kind of taxpayer money is legitimate or not I think it is worth asking the questions of its legitimacy given the overwhelming societal needs including the new "affordable" health care act, housing , jobs...etc etc.

Anonymous said...

Gowanus residents need to elect Nadler to represent the 12th District so we can receive the Billion$ of Federal funds that he has secured to improve NYC's waterfront and transit.

Anonymous said...

1) Can the City do more - Absolutely

2) Can the city water rate payers afford more? I know I could do without another increase.

3) someone has to pay for all everyone of those politicians who attended the meeting should out there finding federal money so the city can do more for us...

4) did they mention that? I didn't think so..

Anonymous said...

The city has been collecting massive levels of water taxes from Brooklyn for a very long time, and spending in on improvements for all that Manhattan development. The city does have a choice on how they spend the sewer tax money. So far they have been choosing to let the highest rate of sewage run through our neighborhood while others get infrastructure to ensure they are sewage free. Well, this superfund will now require the city to use funds in Gowanus to that we might also have a community that beings to approach the standards most of the sewer rate payers enjoy.

Rob said...

Considering NYC (and New York State for that matter) pay more in taxes than they receive from the Federal Government we're owed at least this. We've been subsidizing many smaller and southern states with our tax money so yeah, we should be getting the Fed to pay for this since it's our money coming back to us. Secondly the whole point of Super Fund is they go after the polluters and sue them to help pay for the cost of cleaning it up.

Surprise surprise, pollution costs money to clean up. When you ignore something it gets more expensive. It is 100% unacceptable to have raw sewage flowing down the canal just because it rained. If the city has to pay for tanks to hold sewage so it can be treated before they dump it into the harbor then good. Their own fault and bad infrastructural planning that led to this. The amount of tax giveaways to developers to build more luxury condos and rentals and unneeded frivolous arenas (oh hello Barclays)is the norm so it's a bit disingenuous that suddenly people are upset that infrastructure costs money.