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Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group Meeting
Tuesday March 25th, 2014
41 1st St. Brooklyn NY 11231, Mary Star of the Sea, Community Room


Meeting Participants

CAG Members

Eymund Diegel

Sean Dixon

Stefan Doering

Marlene Donnelly

George Fiala

Katia Kelly

Louis Kleinman

Angela Kramer-Murphy

Linda Laviolette

Eric McClure

Rita Miller

Maria Pagano

Debra Scotto

Mark Shames

Bette Stoltz

Phaedra Thomas




National Grid

The EPA study of the Citizens MGP site has been completed: sheet piles were driven, test pits were dug, and technical questions can be answered with regard to the results of this pilot study. National Grid would be happy to come and answer these questions.




Record of Decision (ROD): Negotiations about the design for the remediation with various Potentially Responsible Parties (PRPs) are currently happening (Con Edison, National Grid, and the City of New York). The parties are having difficulty agreeing on the splitting of the cost of the design process and the EPA is issuing a unilateral order requiring these PRPs to undertake the design as a group. NYC has a contractor working on facility-siting work.


Natalie, with her TedX Talk, has her 15 minutes of fame, and suggests it should be used for outreach. etc.



Community Health Assessment Presentation from New York State Department of Health (DOH)

As part of the listing of the Gowanus Canal as a Priority Site by the EPA, the NYS DOH analyzes data to create the Public Health Assessment (PHA) using datasets from a private consultant, and the chemical and bacteriological data from the EPA investigation: includes water, air, sediment, and fish-tissue analysis. The NYS DOH Public Health Assessment concludes that the bacterial contamination is far greater than the chemical contamination.

  • Of great concern is the use of the canal for recreation
  • Of concern is the use of the canal as a food source
    • NYS has no real data for recommendations for the Canal specifically and follows the Upper Bay advisory; the classification of the canal as an SD water body speaks to the overall health of the fish and quality of water
  • Public access points are dangerous due to bacteria AND chemical contaminants and suggests that long-term exposure could cause health problems
  • Air-quality samples measure that ambient air quality is not adversely impacted by the canal itself
  • The Public Health Assessment recommends personal judgment with regard to recreational use of the canal. The greatest danger comes from bacteriological contamination. Fishing advisories should be followed. NYS will continue to work with partners to assess upland sites and evaluate new information, and will continue to work with the DEC in an effort to establish a specific fish advisory for the Canal itself.



Q: For community cleanup days, how should we advise families etc?

A: Best judgment should be used with regard to protection from exposure to bacteria.

Q: Could water quality be reviewed with regard to classification of canal water?

A: NYS DEC designation of SD (S = Saline) (D = ok for fish survival but not fish propagation) potentially the lowest classification. Classifications were set in the 1970s.

Q: Is the language of the PHA too mild?

A: NYS DOH specifies women under 50 (childbearing age) and children under 15 (still developing) avoid eating seafood from the canal as higher-risk groups. People not developing, and people not of childbearing age are at lower risk.

Stronger language is suggested by multiple community members to emphasize the dangers of contact with the waters of the Gowanus Canal.

Q: Is this the most prescriptive language?

A: No. There are ‘eat none’ recommendations for other water bodies.

Q: What is the process for community input?

A: Document is on the NYS DOH webpage and e-mail or snail mail comments with regard to any aspect of the PHA.

Q: Are numbers important in the comment process?

A: NYS DOH looks at all comments and considers them for responses, but when multiple comments along a similar line are submitted, the DOH will respond to these together.

Q: Will comments be used for anything?

A: Revision and further studies.

Q: How is the NYS DOH working with the DEC and why wasn’t the PHA broader, and will there be an additional assessment of the upland sites?

A: Due to the definition of the site: bulkhead to bulkhead. Upland sites would be taken care of by other agencies and partnerships

Q: Can signs be posted advising visitors of health risks?

A: Signs that are put up tend to go missing. DEP has some signs up, not NYS DOH. DOH is currently working with the city to consider signs.

Q: Why are the lower and upper part of the canal the same?

A: The data from the upper, mid, and lower canal was relatively ubiquitous in all sections

Q: How will the public be notified of these findings?

A: Education and Outreach is dependent upon resources. The information is available in the WWW, in print, and some outreach is dependent upon work with community organizations.

Q: Does the future dredging have the potential to impact the air quality?

EPA: There will be a draft of expectations about the impact of dredging, and there will be telephone/internet hotlines to register complaints. EPA is seeking to reduce risk in every way possible

A: It is the responsibility of the DOH to inform people about the risk.

Q: How will PHA change over time? What kind of updates can be expected?

A: DOH evaluates new environmental information and the NYS DOH will evaluate that new information, and make changes to the PHA. There is not currently a schedule to do so.

Q: Will EPA modify remedies based on these findings? Will the City use these findings as a defense against remedies?

A: EPA has already made their human health/ecological risk decision. New data will be evaluated and if necessary, adjustments will be made. The City will not be able to get out of helping to remediate.

Q: Will there be a way to let folks know about increased risks and disturbance from dredging activity? Who bears responsibility at launch sites and is it dangerous for a private owner to allow someone to launch a boat from their property?

Question for a legal system

Q: What is the timeframe on the comment periods for input from the community for the Community Emergency Health Plan which exists during remediation etc?

A: Not a congressionally mandated thing, but will exist in multiple phases informally

Q: How can we get a Gowanus specific fish advisory?

A: DOH continues to request DEC take samples in order to gather enough information in order to create a canal specific fish advisory. This takes many years etc. DOH has requested several times, and has not gathered enough information from DEC



ACTION: Send questions to the NYS DOH as comments on the Public Health Assessment

ACTION: Contact Hank Willens at the DOH to request information about who to contact with regard to requesting fish testing

ACTION: Forward all documents to the entire CAG, in particular the Water Quality Committee with the goal of creating a Draft Recommendation for public comment on the Public Health Assessment by April 30th.


Committee Reports

Archaeology Committee

CAG Member Angela Kramer-Murphy is leaving and the Archaeology Committee needs a new facilitator!


Outreach Committee

Website content: still trying to populate with CAG and EPA material.

Would it be good to have other relevant information on the site? i.e.:

  • Government-sanctioned events/rulings/decisions
  • Local Non-profit events (Green Infrastructure Program)
  • Calendar will clearly identify CAG vs. other events


Discussions and feedback generally have to do with distinctions between the government or non-governmental organizations and events, and how the different events relate to the canal in some way and have important information that community members may need.


Summary of Actions

ACTION: Send questions to the NYS DOH as comments on the Public Health Assessment

ACTION: Contact Hank Willens at the DOH to request information about who to contact wrt requesting fish testing

ACTION: Forward all documents to the entire CAG, in particular the water quality committee with the goal of creating a Draft Recommendation for public comment on the Public Health Assessment April 30th.


Topics for Future CAG meeting

To discuss next week:

Comments for the DOH

SHIPPO Gowanus Historic District Nomination: Property owners didn’t have a full understanding on the meaning of this process.  Is there a way to facilitate some meeting to clarify these things? Can the CAG facilitate that meeting, and does the HPA and Section 106 matter?

If we are talking only about that we probably wont be able to have Doug facilitate.

Comments are closed.