Wednesday, November 20, 2013

"We Feel Excited. You Should, Too": EPA Updates Gowanus Canal Superfund Community Advisory Group On Current Work

EPA Region 2 fact sheet on web site here
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Christos Tsiamis, Remedial Project Manager for the Gowanus Canal
John Vetter, archaeological expert and contractor to the EPA
Natalie Loney, EPA Region 2 Community Outreach Coordinator,
Doug Sarno, EPA Gowanus Superfund CAG facilitator

On Tuesday evening, members of the Environmental Protection Agency's Gowanus Canal Superfund Community Advisory Group (CAG) met at Mary Star of The Sea Senior Apartments on First Street.  Christos Tsiamis and Natalie Loney of  EPA Region 2 were on hand to update the CAG on the implementation of the Record Of Decision, which was signed in late September 2013. Also in attendance was John Vetter, archaeological expert and contractor to the EPA

Natalie Loney, Region 2 Community Outreach Coordinator, told members of the CAG about a new document that was created on EPA's final clean-up plan for the Gowanus Canal Superfund site. The fact sheet, made available in English and Spanish, lays out the basic premise of the Record of Decision (ROD).  The information is helpful for those who may not have read the entire ROD document.
You can access all records relating to the Gowanus Superfund here.

John Vetter, archaeological expert and contractor to the EPA, spoke about requirements the EPA will be adhering to in terms of historic preservation. Vetter encouraged members of the community to highlight sites and issues of historical importance that should be considered during the remediation design period for the Canal's cleanup.  He talked about engaging with the CAG's Archeology Committee to determine "what is significant? What is important to you historically?  What do you need a narrative about?  What do you need to have memorialized in appropriate documentation and what do you need in terms of tangible, physical  parameters that might occur as a result of the dredging? What physically do we want to retain?" Vetter asked.  "These are the things that are important."

Christos Tsiamis, Remedial Project Manager for the Gowanus Canal reported that the EPA has recently met with representatives of the 35  Responsible Parties (RPs), which includes New York City and National Grid. Tsiamis and Brian Carr, EPA Region 2's legal council, made a presentation to them on the technical and legal requirements of the Agency going forward. 
According to Tsiamis, "it was a good meeting.  There were a lot of questions.  We now expect to hear back from them on how they intend to proceed.  What that means is that we give everyone the opportunity to sign an Order of Consent. In other words, we will be ordering them to do the work, but it will be done in a collaborative way. We will discuss with them the details and put a path forward, together.  That is our preferred way and we expect to have most of the Responsible Parties respond to that request.  If a RP chooses not to participate, the EPA orders them to do the work they are obligated to do.  The feeling that we got from the meeting was that the majority of the Responsible Parties are willing to work with the EPA."  
Tsiamis stated that some of the smaller RPs have indicated that they will be signing on to the agreement.  "They have the option of signing on as 'participating' or 'non-participating'.  That means that they can hire their own contractors and engineers, and be at all of the meetings.  Or they can say 'we trust that you will do a good job. Send us a bill'.  We think that from now till the end of December, we will have a clear understanding of where those 35 Responsible Parties stand. Going into 2014, we expect to have in place the Orders of Consent."

New York City, one of the major Gowanus Canal RPs, has indicated that it would like an additional meeting with EPA to discuss their obligations in detail and to get a better understanding of what the process entails.  Tsiamis and his team anticipate that they will probably have a similar meeting with National Grid.

Tsiamis also updated the CAG on some activities that have been going on in the Canal. "A lot of work has been going on on the sidelines.  We have been working with some land owners, in particular towards the lower end of the canal, on the restoration of the collapsed historical bulkheads."  Benson Scrap Metal at 543 Smith Street at the canal, is currently restoring its bulkheads and Tsiamis has been actively involved in  looking at their engineering plans.  At the same time, the EPA is in discussions with Greco Brothers Concrete and Bayside Fuel, the companies on either side of the scrap metal yard, to reconstruct their bulkheads.  Both of the companies will be submitting their plans to EPA in the coming months.  "By mid-summer 2014, we are going to have an entire side of the canal, from 9th Street to Hamilton Avenue, that will have totally re-constructed bulkheads," Tsiamis explained. "That will be a great savings to the clean-up project and of great help to the project since we don't have to put temporary bulkheads in front of falling ones.  So that's good news.  It's exciting that there is already work being done. We feel excited about this and you should feel excited about it, too."


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your elucidating recap, Katia. It all sounds good!

Anonymous said...

After the EPA spends $500 Billion, Canal water will continue to be dangerous and dumped on when it rains. No other river cleaned by Superfund prohibits swimming after cleanup but EPA thinks it's OK to take away our pool and leave Gowanus community with a waterway full of sh*t.

Jim said...
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