Thursday, April 27, 2017

Forget Clean Gowanus Canal By 2022: Schedule Proposed By Potentially Responsible Parties Adds Six To Seven Years To Completion Date

Doug Sarno facilitator for the Gowanus Canal Superfund Community Advisory Group
At the CAG's April General meeting this past Tuesday.
Christos Tsiamis of EPA addressing the Gowanus Canal Superfund CAG this past Tuesday
EPA timeline for the clean-up of the Gowanus Canal

National Grid, New York City, Honeywell, Amerada Hess, Con Edison and other Potentially Responsible Parties (PRPs) seem to be dragging their feet in regards to the Environmental Protection Agency's  Gowanus Canal Superfund Cleanup.
At last night's Gowanus Superfund Community Advisory Committee (CAG) meeting, Christos Tsiamis, the EPA project manager for the canal, told local residents that certain differences of opinion have arisen fairly recently between his agency and the PRPs.

The differences relate to the schedule of the work that the group of 28 PRPs has been directed to perform in the canal by the EPA.

Following the selection of the environmental remedy for the site in September 2013, the EPA had issued orders to the PRPs to design the selected remedy on a specific timetable. The remedial design work is supposed to be done in stages in three remedial target areas along the canal.
-remedial Target Area #1 includes the upper canal area from Butler Street to the 4th Street Basin
-remedial Target Area #2 includes the middle canal area from the 4th Street Basin to 9th Street
-remedial Target Area #3 includes the lower canal area from 9th Street to the Erie Basin at 21st Street
According to EPA's timetable , the design for Target Area #1 of the Canal was anticipated to be completed by the end of  2017. However, a schedule submitted by the PRPs to EPA indicates a completion date of February 2019. That is a significant change, especially because work for the entire canal is estimated by EPA to be completed by 2022.

The delays could be magnified during the design phase of the other two target areas.  EPA has "reasonably assumed" that the work will therefore be delayed by six to seven years.
"If the PRPs have the same approach as they have now, we conservatively estimate going to 2028-2030 for the completion of the canal, not 2022," Tsiamis explained.

The timeline discrepancy is related to the difference of approach. "One is the 'organizing principle' of the work, the second is the sequencing", according to Tsiamis.  "Our agency's organizing principle from the time that we came to Gowanus to do the investigation, was to build on past work that already existed from the Corps Of Engineers and others.   Then we added what was needed and excercised good engineering judgement to make decisions. We are not trying to reinventing the wheel."

The group of PRPs, however, is insisting on repeating many elements of the work rather than to rely on information that already exists. This is not only a waste of time, it is also a waste of money, according to the EPA.

Sequencing refers to how the actual work is done and how one deals with sub-contractors.  "One of the important aspects of the clean-up is fixing the bulkheads," said Tsiamis. "From our perspective, it makes sense while we are doing other investigations in the canal, to start fixing them."
For the past few years, the EPA has been speaking with property owners, have prepared orders and have been successful in completing a number of bulkheads with others being completed in the near future.  Tsiamis stated that 'one can de-couple the bulkhead work from the rest of the work that is happening in the canal. 
The PRPs are taking the opposite approach, trying to lump all work together.

"I am doing everything in my power to push the work forward. I have issued a number of directives in the last month. I am not sure how successful I will be in compressing the schedule that they have presented." Tsiamis told the CAG. "What you need is willingness on the part of the PRPs."

Obviously the PRPs are taking full advantage of the Trump administration's gutting of the EPA. The Gowanus community should be outraged by any possible delays in the clean-up of our toxic waterways and should voice its protest loudly and clearly.
Enough is enough!


Jim said...

One of 3 definitions of bureaucracy:

"Any organization in which action is obstructed by insistence on unnecessary procedures and red tape".

The canal's fetid condition may outlive you all.

Anonymous said...

Well we have been watching this come down the pike slowly and full of stench like the PooPoo tsunami itself
How utterly depressing. Does anyone expect any different in this current political climate? So now the PRP's are calling the shots? Perfect! Are they getting tax breaks too? And will all those wealthy developers coming to build more luxury condos along the "Venice" of Brooklyn still gt their financial perks too? Yes?
Then, everything is fine and dandy! What are a few PCP's between friends?

Anonymous said...

Katia, thank you for your wonderful reporting on this as always! You are thorough and very clear. So it seems like we will be living near a highly contaminated, open sewer for many more years to come. Lovely. Now can you please explain to us how come vegan "ice cream" is never-the-less selling out at the corner bodega for 10.99 per pint?

Anonymous said...

It's been 100 years. What's another 6 or 7. It didn't stop the monster buildings did it? And I'm no NIMBY this is MBY.

Katia said...

I think some of the residents of the Lightstone development are clueless as to how toxic the canal next to their front door is, so
Organic ice cream and products at Whole Foods at their local bodega make sense to them.
Lightstone of course never mentions the proximity of this Superfund and even has a photo of three young people sitting by the canal with their feet dangling in the polluted water. I kid you not.

A 6-7 year delay will potentially increase to more years if we let it.
The community has to take a stand. I think it should be NO DELAY of any kind, period.
And no rezoning or residential building permits until the canal is clean and saf(er)

Triada Samaras said...

Isn't is obvious the PRP's want to drag this out as long as possible so they dont have to pay, maybe ever? With no support from the Federal Government the Gowanus Canal Clean-Up feels like a fragile dream that will never come true. UGH In the meantime the polluters make out like bandits!

Anonymous said...

Did that movie studio still get claimed? Or is that also stopped for now?

Anonymous said...

Didn't National Grid just secure a customer surcharge to offset their environmental work? If they are going to cause an almost decade long delay then perhaps the surcharge the public will pay for their actions should be delayed.

Katia said...

You are absolutely right. Was there even an end date to the increase, or was it indefinite?

Patricia O said...

This is outrageous! PRP's should be fined by the city and the Federal Government everyday they miss a deadline. Why aren't these rules already in place? How do we make this change? I am sick to death of this smelly canal! Unacceptable!

Janah Boccio said...

What can we do to demand no more delay? Who can we call and write to? Thank you for reporting on this. It's outrageous. And that part about the developers using a picture of people dangling their feet in the water!?! Oy!