EPA results of post-Sandy tests in Gowanus

EPA results of post-Sandy tests in Gowanus

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, many neighbors who live and work in Gowanus have reached out to my office with concerns about the impact of flooding near the canal. Since the arrival of the storm, Councilmember Lander has been in communication with EPA Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck and NYC Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Carter Strickland. Both responded quickly and committed to work together to conduct any sampling needed to address potential issues of toxicity created by the flooding.

In response to Councilmember Lander's outreach, on Wednesday, October 31st, the EPA took four water samples in the area: two directly from the canal and two from the ground floor of businesses that had been flooded. The EPA also toured the Gowanus Canal on Sunday, November 4th to assess damage and any environmental impacts of Hurricane Sandy.

The EPA has since analyzed the samples of flood water taken from the two local business for bacteria and 139 different chemicals and posted the results on its website yesterday evening. The EPA found that levels of bacteria were high, reinforcing the need for people to take precautions when cleaning up flood waters, as detailed on the EPA’s website. All chemicals that were tested – including PAHs, which are the primary contaminants in Gowanus Canal sediment – were below levels of concern or not detected.

Below you can find a full statement from the EPA on the Hurricane Sandy Sampling Results. I know many neighbors may still have questions about the impact of flooding near the Gowanus Canal. I will continue to work with other elected officials in the area to request opportunities for residents and business owners to speak with the EPA and their team. Check my website or inquire with my District Office at 718-499-1090 for updates.


US Environmental Protection Agency
Hurricane Sandy Sampling Results

On October 31, 2012, EPA took 4 samples in the Gowanus Canal area. Samples were taken from the ground floors of two buildings that had been flooded as well as directly from the canal. One of the buildings is located at the head of the canal, and the other near the 3rd street turning basin.

Samples of flood water from the ground floors of the two buildings were analyzed for bacteria and 139 different chemicals within the following categories: metals, volatile organic compounds, petroleum related compounds and semi-volatile organic compounds. Semi-volatile organic compound include polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAHs, which are the primary contaminants in Gowanus Canal sediment.

Levels of bacteria were high. While this type of bacteria becomes inactive over time, these findings reinforce the need for people to protect themselves when cleaning up flood waters that contain sewage and therefore contain bacteria. Fact sheets detailing the precautions people should take when cleaning flood waters can be found at http://www.epa.gov/sandy/

The remaining four categories of pollutants were compared to health based values of drinking water quality. Chemicals that were tested were below levels of concern or not detected. Low levels of gasoline and diesel derivatives were found, consistent with road run-off which often contains traces of fuel.

Levels of semi-volatile organic compounds were very low or not detected. These compounds include PAHs, which are a primary contaminant in the sediments at the bottom of the canal. The presence of some PAHs at low levels may also be related to spilled fuel and run off from asphalt.

Levels of most volatile organic compounds and metals were very low or not at levels that could be detected.

Levels of metals included some slight exceedances of drinking water standards. In the case of lead, its presence may be related to past lead usage in gasoline, typical to an urban environment.

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