The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has completed the initial phase of dredging in the main channel of the Gowanus Canal north of the 3rd Street Bridge, removing about 35,000 cubic yards of contaminated material from the bed of the canal. Beginning in the fall, in situ stabilization will begin the process of capping the canal bed.

Read all about it in the EPA’s Community Update #2, embedded below, or click here to download: Page 1 / Page 2.

At its June 22, 2021 general meeting, the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group passed the following resolution in support of EPA’s Administrative Order of March 29, 2021.

The resolution reads as follows:

Resolved:
In order for the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group (CAG) to consider any rezoning within the Gowanus canal watershed, the City of New York must be in full compliance of EPA’s Administrative Order dated March 29, 2021, and fully meet the requirements set forth in the remedy selected in EPA’s September 27, 2013, Record of Decision (“ROD”) for the Gowanus Canal Superfund Site. As stated in the ROD, “The Portion of the Remedial Action (“RA”) to be implemented pursuant to EPA’s Administrative Order includes the construction and operation of two Combined Sewer Overflow (“CSO”) retention tanks (“CSO Tanks”) to control contaminated solid discharges and requests to assure compliance with the Clean Water Act.” Without meeting these critical infrastructure requirements there will be an adverse impact on EPA’s Superfund remedy, as well as the health and safety of current and future residents of the Gowanus Canal and neighboring areas.

Background:
The Gowanus Canal CAG has been advocating for coordination between NYCDEP and NYCDCP as affirmed in the May 2019 resolution calling for greater coordination between the New York City Department of City Planning and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection by stating, “As the proposed Gowanus neighborhood rezoning could impact the Superfund process and remedy through increased loading of contaminated CSO solids in the Canal, the Gowanus CAG hereby requests that the Department of City Planning (NYCDCP) and Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) work closely together to coordinate mitigation of negative impacts. To ensure agency compliance, we further request regular updates on coordination efforts by providing written answers to questions unaddressed at the March 26, 2019 general CAG meeting.”

In addition the November 2020 resolution, Support of EPA Letter Regarding Gowanus Superfund ROD and Gowanus Rezoning, states “The Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group (CAG) strongly supports the position EPA states in its October 27th letter to the NYCDEP and NYCDCP regarding the proposed rezoning of the land surrounding the banks of Gowanus Canal, that any rezoning impacting the Canal must proceed in a manner that is protective of human health and the environment, as envisioned in EPA’s Canal remedy and affirmed in the 2013 Gowanus Canal Record of Decision (“ROD”).”

Since the City of New York has been in noncompliance with EPA’s Administrative Order, the Clean Water Act, and the agreed upon Gowanus Canal Record of Decision (“ROD”) and has not responded to the above mentioned CAG resolutions, the CAG cannot support any rezoning that would have an adverse impact on EPA’s Superfund work, as well as the health and safety of the area’s residents.

Click here to see a PDF version of the full resolution.

At its June 22, 2021 general meeting, the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group passed the following resolution regarding the process underlying and the design of the planned Gowanus Canal Owls Head CSO facility.

The resolution reads as follows:

Resolved:
In recognition of the current ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure) underway for the Site Selection and Acquisition of property by the City and change to the City Map to facilitate a new combined sewer overflow (CSO) facility (aka “Gowanus Canal CSO Facility – Owls Head”) that is being sought by the City adjacent to the Gowanus Canal west of 2nd Avenue and north of the 6th Street Turning Basin in Gowanus, Community District 6, Brooklyn, the CAG requests the following:

  • Conduct an in-person public input session with additional Zoom access in partnership with the Gowanus CAG as soon as possible to facilitate public input prior to finalization of site, tank, and headhouse design and an initial presentation of the project design to the community, supported by the CAG’s Resolution, “Requesting Public Engagement Regarding Mid-Canal CSO Tank Design” dated July 2020. Following this, and taking community feedback into account, additional presentations will be made at four key milestones: 100% schematic design, 100% design development, 100% bid documents, and documents issued for construction;

Background:
Each CSO retention tank facility offers the city and community a rare opportunity to leverage critical urban infrastructure to improve our environment while ensuring minimal disruption to local stakeholders. An integrated design approach with clear community input that improves canal access and egress, restores tidal estuarine ecology including habitat for key marine and bird species, and diverts harmful contaminants from the waterway is a benefit to the community and city.

Click here to see a PDF version of the full resolution.

The Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group passed the following resolution in July, 2020 requesting that the EPA require the New York City Department of Environmental Protection to seek community input for the design of the mid-canal CSO tank planned for the Salt Lot.

The resolution reads as follows:

Resolved:
The CAG requests that EPA require DEP hold a community listening session regarding the overall site plan and design for the OH-007 CSO tank required at the Salt Lot near the mid-point of the Gowanus Canal, and incorporate community feedback, prior to finalization of the designs and submission to the Public Design Commission.

The CAG requests that EPA require DEP to present designs for the overall site plan and design for the OH-007 CSO tank to the CAG for comment and input prior to finalization of the designs and prior to submission to the Public Design Commission.

Background:
Given the size, scale, and cost of the proposed mid-canal CSO tank – and given the many issues that emerged related to the head-of-canal CSO tank design – the public and the CAG should have greater input regarding the tank and site design before the design is finalized.

Click here to see a PDF version of the full resolution.

In accordance with the Level 1 Archaeological Monitoring protocol outlined in the Cultural Resource Monitoring Plan for the Gowanus Canal Superfund cleanup, materials dredged from the canal are examined for possible archaeological and cultural significance. These include not only larger objects, but also dredged soft sediments that are placed directly into scows, floated by barge to the Clean Earth Claremont Facility in Jersey City, and screened over four-inch bars on a vibrating platform.

Items removed during the screening process are sorted by the Clean Earth operator, and anything of potential interest (possible artifacts or objects of local interest) is separated and photographed daily for specialists employed by Archaeology & Historic Resource Services (AHRS) to review. These items are then placed in a holding area for AHRS to inspect weekly.

The AHRS archaeologists provide reports of the items they analyze on an ongoing basis to the Gowanus Canal Environmental Remediation Trust (the group of parties responsible for the Superfund cleanup) and the EPA.

While most of what is dredged from the Gowanus Canal falls firmly in the junk category – think old tires, wooden pilings and chunks of concrete – some of the items are interesting. Please click on the links below to see the detailed reports, which contain photographs of noteworthy items, and which we update as new reports are received.

Gowanus Cultural Review Memo #1
Gowanus Cultural Review Memo #2
Gowanus Cultural Review Memo #3
Gowanus Cultural Review Memo #4 Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5
Gowanus Cultural Review Memo #5
Gowanus Cultural Review Memo #6
Gowanus Cultural Review Memo #7
Gowanus Cultural Review Memo #8 Part 1 | Part 2
Gowanus Cultural Review Memo #9
Gowanus Cultural Review Memo #10
Gowanus Cultural Review Memo #11
Gowanus Cultural Review Memo #12
Gowanus Cultural Review Memo #13

The U.S. Coast Guard and EPA have closed the Gowanus Canal to all recreational boating between Butler Street and 9th Street through November 30, 2021. From the Coast Guard’s updated Notice to Mariners:

The Gowanus Canal is closed to all recreational boating between 9th Street and Butler Street, including use of the 2nd Street public boat launch, at the direction of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), the lead federal agency for the Gowanus Canal Superfund Site, due to the ongoing construction of the dredging and capping remedy of the canal until further notice unless specific advance written authorization is granted by USEPA. Contact: (212) 637-3639. For further  information:  https://gowanussuperfund.com/

You can see the complete Notice to Mariners here.

Linda Mariano, a founding member of both the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group and local advocacy organization Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus (F.R.O.G.G.), passed away on Thursday, April 1st, according to a report by fellow CAG member Katia Kelly on her news blog, Pardon Me for Asking.

Linda was a passionate advocate for Gowanus, the neighborhood she called home for the better part of half a century, and she played a key role in convincing the EPA to designate the Gowanus Canal a Superfund site in 2010. She worked tirelessly to help preserve the neighborhood’s industrial heritage.

Linda Mariano campaigning for Superfund designation in 2009 (Daily News/DeCrescenzo)

We extend our condolences to Linda’s family and many friends. We’ll share information regarding a memorial service when it’s available.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency yesterday issued an administrative order compelling the City of New York to construct two sewage retention tanks to control discharges into the Gowanus Canal. The move follows previous orders issued in 2014 and 2016 that mandated that the city find locations for, and design the tanks, respectively.

The new order includes a requirement that the city construct a new bulkhead at the “Salt Lot” site of the smaller tank, and mandates new schedule benchmarks, citing the city’s noncompliance with previous milestones laid out in the 2014 order.

The EPA has ordered New York City to construct an eight-million-gallon tank, the “RH-034 tank,” which refers to the site of a sewer outfall, near the head end of the Gowanus Canal, and a second four-million-gallon tank, the “OH-007 tank,” on the Salt Lot near the Canal’s Fifth Street basin. The tanks are intended to capture sewage during heavy rainfall events that would otherwise discharge directly into the Canal and threaten the integrity of the Superfund cleanup.

You can read the EPA’s press release here, and the full Administrative Order here.