EPA, NYC Set Sites for Gowanus Tanks
The City of New York and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have reached a tentative agreement regarding the construction of two sewage and storm water tanks to be built as part of the cleanup process at the Gowanus Canal Superfund Site, the EPA has announced.
The agreement, pending public comment over the next several weeks, places the larger of the two tanks (with a capacity of 8 million gallons) on two adjoining properties on Nevins Street between Butler Street and Degraw Street, at the very head of the canal, in Brooklyn’s Gowanus neighborhood. This site was the city’s preference.
The EPA also set a plan for the site that the city must comply with, including acquiring the properties for the tank in the next four years. If the city cannot comply, the agency reserves the right to require that the tank go in the agency’s original preferred location, a block east at the Thomas Greene Park.
Preserving the Park
By placing the tank at the “Head of Canal” location, the city aims to avoid the loss of land at Thomas Greene, which currently includes a playground and swimming pool.
“The New York City Parks Department prefers not to have a large sewage retention tank permanently located in a city park,” explains EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck. “The EPA is also committed to preserving urban parkland and therefore spent time working with the City of New York about an alternate location. This proposed location meets the EPA’s twin goals of cleaning up the canal while also protecting urban parkland.”
The site of a smaller tank—with a 4-million-gallon capacity—has already been settled, at a salt lot at 2nd Avenue and 5th Street, about eight blocks downstream.
Decades of Pollution
The Gowanus Canal, which runs from Gowanus into the Upper Bay and borders the neighborhoods of Park Slope, Red Hook and Carroll Gardens, was long the site of industrial activity and, according to the EPA, became one of the nation’s most contaminated bodies of water.
Contaminants in the canal, according to the agency, include PCBs, coal tar wastes, heavy metals and volatile organics.
In 2010, the agency added the Gowanus to its Superfund National Priorities List, prioritizing the cleanup process. In 2013, it issued its plan for the cleanup, which includes dredging the canal, and creating ways to prevent further contamination due to sewage discharges.
“Cleaning up the Gowanus Canal is a daunting task which not only involves dredging toxic sediment, but also building huge retention tanks to reduce the amount of raw sewage that flows into the canal,” says Enck. “Getting these tanks installed is a key component of the cleanup.”
Public comment continues through May 16; comments can be emailed to EPA Superfund Director Walter Mugdan. A public meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Monday (April 25), at P.S. 32, 317 Hoyt St., Brooklyn, N.Y.