We are terribly saddened to learn of the passing of our Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group colleague, and long-time local activist, Bette Stoltz, who died Thursday, November 19 after a brief illness. Our most sincere condolences go out to Bette’s family and many friends.

The CAG’s Katia Kelly posted a touching tribute to Bette on her blog, Pardon Me For Asking, which you can read here. And City Council Member Brad Lander published a moving remembrance of Bette’s civic advocacy on his blog, bradlander.nyc.

Bette Stoltz.

In light of the second Gowanus Canal swim this year by clean-water activist Christopher Swain, we thought we’d reiterate that the first resolution passed by the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group, way back in March 2012, was a call to the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYC DEP) and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) that the quality of the water in the Canal be improved enough in the future to reclassify it from its current standard, SD, the lowest possible classification for marine waters.

The Gowanus Superfund Community Advisory Group hereby resolves that the water of the Gowanus Canal be reclassified from its current industrial standard, which is designated Class-SD. Class-SD only mandates a minimal level of dissolved oxygen be maintained in the waters, but places no limit to levels of pathogens present in the waterway.

The CAG requests that the Gowanus Canal be given a water classification that is protective of its current recreational uses which includes contact recreation for families and children. 
A reclassification that imposes limits on pathogen levels, both coliform and enterococci bacteria, is necessary to insure that children and others are not exposed to unacceptable health risks, including dangerous diseases, due to a simple act of coming into contact with the w!ater while recreating in, on, or at the canal.

The CAG believes that any Long-Term Control Plan put into place for New York City must raise the water quality of the Gowanus Canal to a standard compatible with recreational goals, a position we reiterated to NYC DEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd in a June, 2015 letter.

You can learn more about New York State water-quality standards and classifications here.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is beginning remediation of the Gowanus Canal Northside site (also known as the Bayside Fuel Oil Depot) under New York State’s Brownfield Cleanup Program.

Work will include dismantling and removing oil storage tanks, piping and associated shallow contaminated soil for disposal off-site, in preparation of a full Remedial Investigation. Based on the results of the Remedial Investigation, NYS DEC will develop a Remedial Action Work Plan that will be subject to public comment, leading to a final design and cleanup action.

You can download NYSDEC’s Gowanus Canal Northside site factsheet here: http://www.dec.ny.gov/data/der/factsheet/c224080irm.pdf

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Author, historian and Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group member Joseph Alexiou has just published a new book – about the murky past of the Gowanus Canal. Story via the Brooklyn Paper:

“The Gowanus Canal is a lens through which you can look at the development of Brooklyn as a city,” said historian Joseph Alexiou. “You could stand at the water’s edge from 1630 to 2015, and you can tell exactly what period you’re in by how the canal’s being used. In the pre-colonial era you’re seeing natives fishing for oysters. Post-colonial you’re seeing Dutch settlers and grist mills. During the revolutionary period you’re seeing rebels getting shot, and during the industrial period you start seeing pollution.”

Joseph Alexiou (Photo: Jason Speakman/Brooklyn Paper
Joseph Alexiou (Photo: Jason Speakman/Brooklyn Paper)

John Lipscomb (Photo: Leslie Albrecht/DNAinfo)


Via DNAinfo and Park Slope/Windsor Terrace/Gowanus reporter Leslie Albrecht:

John Lipscomb loves boats, open water and the scent of fresh ocean air, but on a recent humid evening at low tide, he couldn’t wait to steer a bathtub-size aluminum vessel onto one of America’s most polluted waterways.

“Shall we?” Lipscomb asked with a hint of glee as he fired up the motor and set a course for the Gowanus Canal, home of water so dirty that humans are warned not to touch it.

Lipscomb is the in-house boat captain for the clean water advocacy group Riverkeeper.

He pilots Riverkeeper’s patrol boat and monitors water quality on the Hudson River and its tributaries. Lipscomb visits the canal once a month to take water samples and hunt for signs of illegal dumping by polluters who sometimes end up getting sued by Riverkeeper and fined by state agencies.

Click here to read the full article.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation today issued the Record of Decision (ROD) for the K-Fulton Works site (NYSDEC site #224051), principally bordering the eastern edge of the head of the Gowanus Canal.  The ROD describes the remedy selected to address contamination on the site of the former manufactured-gas plant (MGP).

According to NYSDEC, the site was operated as a manufactured-gas plant from about 1879 until 1929.  The operation of the plant caused contamination of sub-surface soil and groundwater by coal tar, a byproduct of manufactured gas production.

Major elements of the planned cleanup include:

  1. Construction of a subsurface barrier wall to prevent coal tar migration to the Gowanus Canal.
  1. Coal tar recovery by use of coal tar recovery wells or other systems.
  1. Excavation and/or stabilization of MGP structures and source material to be coordinated with re-development.
  1. A Site Management Plan that will include provisions to monitor the performance and effectiveness of the remedy.

NYSDEC estimates the remediation work will cost $54,525,000.

Click here to view a PDF version of the complete ROD.

For more information, contact NYSDEC Project Manager Henry Willems at (518) 402-9662, or via email at henry.willems@dec.ny.gov.

The Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group will hold its July 2015 General Meeting at the Mary Star of the Sea Senior Residences, at 41 1st Street in Carroll Gardens, at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 28.  All Gowanus CAG meetings are open to the public, and we invite you to attend to learn more about the EPA Superfund cleanup of the canal.

DRAFT AGENDA (all times are approximate)

6:30 – 7:00 PM: Introductions and Updates

  • Introductions
  • Project Updates (EPA)

7:00 PM: CAG Committee Updates

  • Administration Committee
  • Outreach Committee
  • Archaeology Committee
  • Water Quality and Technical Committee
    • NYSDEC amendments to the Brownfield Program regulations
  • Other Business

8:30 PM: Adjourn

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection submitted the Draft CSO Facility Site Recommendation Reports to the EPA last week, for the RH-034 (head-end of the Gowanus Canal) and OH-007 (mid-Canal) sewer outfall retention tanks.  The reports explain the DEP’s site recommendations in detail.

You can view PDF copies of the reports by clicking the links below:

RH-034 Site Recommendation Report

OH-007 Site Recommendation Report