Posted by & filed under EPA Updates, General Meetings.

Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group Meeting
Tuesday January 28th, 2014
41 1st St. Brooklyn NY 11231, Mary Star of the Sea, Community Room


CAG Members Present

Jerry Armer

Diane Buxbaum

Michelle de La Uz

Stefan Doering

Marlene Donnelly

George Fiala

Ray Howell

Katia Kelly

Louis Kleinman

Angela Kramer-Murphy

Ariel Krasnow

Linda Mariano

Trudy Milburn

Lizzie Olesker

Josh Skaller

Phaedra Thomas

Maryann Young



Update from the EPA (Christos Tsiamis, EPA Project Manager for Gowanus Canal Cleanup)

After signing the Record of Decision (ROD) a demand letter was sent to responsible parties asking them to perform the work to clean the Canal. A meeting was held with all responsible parties, and additional meetings have occurred to move the design forward. In December, NYC and National Grid met with EPA. In January, specifics were discussed.


Preexisting orders exist and it is expected that National Grid and the City of New York will continue to do ‘predesign tasks’ until their larger orders are in place.


Action: Predesign Plans asked of Responsible Parties include: to survey debris in canal, create design plan, survey the extent of the condition/deterioration of bulkheads, asked to prepare work plans for gathering of additional data (particularly with regard to upwelling of groundwater and pilot study for native sediments), to prepare a plan for ecological requirements by state/federal law, asked City specifically to site underground storm-water retention tanks and identify temporary measures to take (to be done by July 1, 2014).

Due: October 1st, 2014


Christos spoke positively of the progress made, and the attitude of responsible parties in meetings. More meetings will continue to follow including a meeting with the City which will begin direct communication between EPA and the City of New York.

Upland sites have also seen considerable work progress. The scrapyard has a brand new (steel) bulkhead. Lightstone is also doing work, and EPA is in the process of review and will be submitting additional requirements shortly. Work is also occurring on sites derived from Riverkeeper lawsuits (e.g. scrapyard across from Whole Foods storm water management, Grecco Bros.) where settlement has occurred and EPA is providing commentary and requirements.


CAG Questions

Q: Are National Grid and the City the only ones paying for cleanup?

A: There is a smaller group of responsible parties also pooling funding, and they will pay more or less depending.

A: Further, EPA has received monies owed from National Grid for work already taken on.

Q: At what point will assessment be undertaken to ensure that the capacity of the storm-water retention tanks be updated per new developments and projects in the area?

A: This is a pre-design stipulation, and the project needs to move forward. EPA needs the city to offer potential sites, capacity will not be ignored but it would seem that locating the tanks takes precedent currently.

A: The required size of the retention tanks is measured based on current pressures in the neighborhood as well as impact of some of the proposed new development and the future loads they may bring to the sewer system. Additionally rainfall data from recent years, and future projections will help inform engineering decisions about the size of the retention tanks.

A: TO RECAP – retention tanks are designed to capture extra water during storm events to minimize combined sewage overflow. After rain events captured water will be treated and allowed to flow into the Canal.

Q: Is steel the only available option for bulkheads?

A: No. This is the currently accepted material. If another material or composite is recommended or developed it will be considered.

Q: What is the projected lifespan of the cap proposed for the canal bed?

A: Capping materials change. Projections of 30-40 years with current materials, but it could be longer.  EPA has benchmark check-ins to monitor the effectiveness of the cap.

Q: Why particular dates used to determine deadlines for predesign tasks?

A: Predetermined schedule.


Shoutouts to Tedx Gowanus where EPA Region 2 Community Involvement Coordinator Natalie Loney presented on the Superfund site. Other members of the CAG attended and gave excellent talks on the neighborhood.

Action: When videos are edited and posted, it is recommended that the CAG post Natalie’s very clear explanation of the EPA and Superfund process. This does not mean that the CAG approves extraneous materials on the website.


Committee Reports


Outreach Committee

The Outreach Committee is looking for help with developing a framework for the timely sourcing and updating of information material. The committee is further looking to streamline the materials that will go onto the website including templates for Committee Meeting Notes to assist with the timely dissemination of information with each committee.


The CAG Logo has been discussed. Feedback on logos, taglines, and websites is welcomed at the next committee meeting. The FROGG logo, while beloved, is not appropriate according to the current CAG identity.


Discussion of the TAG Grant recipient from FROGG and the TAG Awardee’s relationship to FROGG and the CAG should be undertaken in February’s CAG meeting.


Next Outreach Committee meeting is on Thursday, Feb 13th at 8:30 AM at the Fifth Avenue Committee’s office.


Other Business

NYS DOH and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) Draft Public Health Assessment

The Department of Health has asked to attend the next CAG meeting for an update on the health of the Gowanus Canal. The health assessment is a qualitative assessment from reports and analysis.

Action: The DOH will be permitted to present at the next CAG.


Bridging Gowanus

Community visioning initiative undertaken by Brad Lander, Nydia Velazquez, Steve Levin, and various other elected officials. It was recommended that Bridging Gowanus be invited to present their overall findings to the CAG, to hear the “Community Perspective” and to get a feeling for what Bridging Gowanus has been finding.


There is significant contention about how these meetings are being set up and the validity of the “consensus” taken by Bridging Gowanus. Not all members believe now is the time to including Bridging Gowanus in the CAG’s dealings, nor are they sure what is being accomplished by inviting Bridging Gowanus: “The time has passed for cross-pollination”. It is also important to remember the scope of the SUPERFUND CAG vs. the Bridging Gowanus framework (land use and upland issues).


Others noted that it is a time to perform the ‘CAGly” function and invite Bridging Gowanus into the conversation and inform the community about what is going on with the cleanup. Community conversation keeps returning to bulkheads and retention tanks and these issues need to be clarified.


Action: Motion to invite Brad Lander and other elected officials involved in Bridging Gowanus to the next CAG meeting to talk about the retention tanks and to invite the larger community to come and see CAG proceedings.

Motion Passes. No specific agenda item around their invitation. Need to have bigger rooms secured for these meetings.


Action: Motion to write a letter to the city and elected officials to advance bridge maintenance to facilitate EPA access to the canal, and to also use this as a press release so as to put more pressure on the city.

UPDATE: Carroll Street Bridge can be opened manually. DOT crews required. Damage done from SANDY, FEMA funds have been applied for.

Motion Passes


Policy Changes in Washington, DC

Municipalities may be given a say in Superfund designations; members are fearful this might be used to protect special interests. Member suggests that this is not the role or job of the CAG.

Action: Motion to write letters to NY reps in DC to block this law. Revision: write response to New York Times OpEd. Vote includes authorizing the writing group to disseminate.

Motion Passes One opposed.



4th Tuesday of each month meeting schedule to remain. Will treat November and December meetings same as 2013 and meet on the third Tuesday in November, with no December meeting. If we do need more meetings, will discuss reinstating the December meeting.

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