Join me at the EPA's Gowanus Canal cleanup meeting tonight (or tomorrow)

Join me at the EPA's Gowanus Canal cleanup meeting tonight (or tomorrow)

EPA inspects Gowanus after Hurricane Sandy

Cleaning up the deeply polluted Gowanus Canal has long been a priority of this community, and I am pleased to report that we are getting closer to that goal. The canal was designated a Superfund site by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2010, and the EPA has now issued its Proposed Plan for cleaning up the Gowanus Canal. You can find the full 43-page proposed plan here and a three-page community summary here.

Today and tomorrow, the EPA is presenting the plan to the community, and they are taking comments through the end of March (details below). In brief, the Proposed Plan calls for the following:

  • Removing over 500,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment from the bottom of the canal.
  • Treating contaminated dredged material off-site for re-use.
  • Stabilizing some sediment contaminated with liquid coal tar in place.
  • Capping dredged areas with multiple layers of clean material, to restore the canal bottom as a habitat.

The EPA’s Proposed Plan also calls for stormwater runoff control measures to significantly reduce the amount of combined sewer overflows (CSOs) deposited in the Gowanus Canal – so that the canal is not recontaminated after the dredging. This work would be done together with a “Long Term Control Plan” for water quality managed by the City’s Department of Environmental Protection, and overseen by New York State.

The EPA anticipates the total cost will be around $500 million, to be paid for by the “responsible parties” (including National Grid and the City of New York) who played a role in the canal’s contamination over many years.

Dredging and treating contaminated sediment, capping the canal bottom, and investing in significant CSO reductions to improve water quality are important parts of a comprehensive, forward-looking cleanup plan for the Gowanus Canal. So I am very encouraged by the EPA’s plan.

The EPA is hosting two public meetings to discuss their Proposed Plan tonight and tomorrow (details below). I will be there, to ask questions, to hear from community members, and listen to your comments. You can also submit written comments until March 28, 2013 to GowanusCanalComments [dot] Region2 [at] epa [dot] gov.

Tonight, Wednesday, January 23 at 6:30 pm PS 58 – The Carroll School, 330 Smith Street at Carroll Street

Tomorrow, Thursday, January 24 at 7:00 pm Joseph Miccio Community Center, 110 West 9th Street (between Clinton and Henry Streets)

This is an important moment for Gowanus – and one we need to build upon. The EPA’s Proposed Plan is a huge start, but there will be more to do, especially in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. I believe we need to:

  • implement a comprehensive cleanup plan, including not only dredging and water quality, but also bulkheads, shorelines, wetlands, and upland brownfields;
  • invest in sustainable infrastructure (e.g. sewers, flood protection, open space); and
  • plan for future land uses, to insure a vibrant, sustainable, productive, mixed-use canal area.

As we continue to recover from Hurricane Sandy, plan for the cleanup of the canal, and look toward the future, we have the opportunity to reclaim this toxic corner of our neighborhood, and create an innovative model for low-lying, mixed-use areas on a warming planet.

Let’s not let it pass us by.