News & Culture in Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill and Points Nearby
January 19, 2021
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News + Views

Gowanus Update

By Lisa M. Collins
The banks of the Gowanus, one of the nation's most polluted waterways
Photo by Joshua Kristal

At Wednesday’s EPA meeting on the Gowanus, at PS 32’s auditorium, on Hoyt and President streets, there was good news and bad news. The good news is the federal environmental agency folks in charge of the cleanup seem like good, smart, friendly people. The bad news:

1. There is a cancer risk to people who’ve touched or ingested the canal water;

2. The cleanup won’t be done till 2020, due to the severe and pervasive nature of the contamination (the time frame is normal for pollution sites that are so serious they are placed on the national priority list for “most polluted” waterways);

3. The Public Place site is the most contaminated. The city had green-lighted that site, on the edge of Carroll Gardens, for residential development, which raises questions about the judgement of city officials, who would put humans on a very toxic site; and

4. Even when this cleanup is done, the canal will still be polluted.

The head EPA engineer on the project said the level of contamination was serious, and concerning, which does seem obvious. He also said he’s hopeful the site can become somewhat healthy, but that there will always be contamination there. Over the coming year, the EPA will determine how to clean it—whether through dredging it, filling it in, using massive machines to suck out the muck, etc.

Check out this really great story by J. David Goodman in the New York Times Cityroom blog, about the city’s $140 million project to clean out a flushing tunnel under the streets of Carroll Gardens. The tunnel will pump water from Buttermilk Channel into the canal, cleaning it, and hopefully, improving the smell. The project is slated for completion in 2012.

South Brooklyn Post wrote about the EPA’s early February report detailing the agency’s findings during a year of studying the canal pollution. This story has a photo slideshow:

And this one has more details of the pollution risks:

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