The Environmental Protection Agency just issued the press release below, stating that the Federal Agency has issued an important Administrative Order requiring New York City to construct two sewage retention tanks as part of the Gowanus Canal Superfund Site Cleanup.
This is great news for the Gowanus community, which has long demanded that the City of New York cease the use of the Gowanus Canal as an open sewer.
As part of the EPA Record of Decision for the Gowanus Canal Superfund clean-up, the EPA had mandated that the NYC Department of Environmental Protection construct two retention tanks to control untreated sewage from entering the canal during heavy downpours.
NYC DEP has tried to delay the tank's construction for the past few years. Just recently, DEP's Commissioner Vincent Sapienza told EPA Region 2 that the completion date for the larger of the two tanks at the head of the canal would have to be pushed back to 2032, citing "the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the city's finances and water revenues."
This EPA order legally compels the City to complete the smaller retention tank on the Salt Lot near 2nd Avenue in 2028 and the larger 8 million gallon tank by 2029. If the City fails to comply to the order, it will face stiff fines.
It is important to note that the two tanks only address CSO discharges into the canal under current conditions. This is significant given the fact that NY City is currently pushing for a massive rezone that would bring about 20,000 new residents into the area. However, the EPA has publicly assured the community that will carefully monitor sewage discharge from any future residential development to insure that the City does not recontaminate the Gowanus Canal.
NEW YORK (March 30, 2021)
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ordered the City of New York (city) to construct and operate two Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) retention tanks to control contaminated solids discharges at the Gowanus Canal Superfund site in Brooklyn, New York, which is a key component of the Gowanus Canal cleanup. The EPA’s order follows previous orders that EPA issued in 2014 and 2016 to require the city to find a location for and design the two tanks. Controls to reduce CSO discharges and prevent other land-based sources of pollution, such as street runoff, from compromising the cleanup are a critical part of the site’s cleanup plan.
“This order will ensure that EPA’s cleanup efforts will not be undermined by uncontrolled combined sewer overflow discharges that have contributed to the chemical contamination of this waterway and impacted this community for the past century and a half,” said EPA Acting Regional Administrator Walter Mugdan. “To ensure the integrity of the dredging work, the retention tanks will control New York City’s sewer outfalls over the long-term.”
The administrative order, issued on March 29, 2021, requires the city to construct one 8-million-gallon tank, located at the head of the canal, and one 4-million-gallon tank, located at a New York City Department of Sanitation Salt Lot near the middle of the canal.
The order also requires the city to, among other things:
• Ensure that developers comply with municipal stormwater regulations within the Gowanus area to prevent additional sewer volume from impairing the effectiveness of the CSO tanks; • Provide treatment for separated stormwater discharges;
• Perform monitoring of sewer solids discharges to ensure protection of the dredging remedy; • Perform associated maintenance dredging, if determined by EPA to be necessary; • Construct a bulkhead on City-owned property to prepare for the second phase of dredging work; and
• Adhere to an overall schedule for remaining tank design work and construction.
The 2013 cleanup plan for the Gowanus Canal Superfund site includes dredging to remove contaminated sediment from the bottom of the canal, which has accumulated because of industrial activity and CSO discharges. More than a dozen contaminants, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls, and heavy metals, including mercury, lead, and copper, are present at high levels in the Gowanus Canal sediments. Dredged sediment that contains high levels of liquid tar will be thermally treated at an off-site facility and disposed. The less contaminated dredged sediment will be processed at an off-site facility to transform it into a beneficial use product, such as landfill cover. Certain areas of the native sediment, below the original canal bottom, that contain mobile liquid tar and are too deep to excavate, will be mixed with cement and solidified to prevent the migration of the tar into the water of the canal. Following dredging and solidification of areas of the native sediment, construction of a multilayer cap in dredged areas will isolate and prevent migration of any dissolved chemicals remaining in the deep native sediments.
To view EPA’s administrative order, as well as other information and documents concerning cleanup activity and EPA’s efforts at the site, please visit www.epa.gov/superfund/gowanus-canal Follow EPA Region 2 on Twitter at http://twitter.com/eparegion2 and visit our Facebook page, http://facebook.com/eparegion2