Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group Meeting
Tuesday October 28, 2014
41 1st St. Brooklyn NY 11231, Mary Star of the Sea, Community Room
Michelle de La Uz
Alternate for John McGettrick
Alternate for Natasia Sidarta
Update from Christos Tsiamis, EPA Project Manager for the Gowanus Canal Cleanup
Storm-Water Retention Tank Information Session
Conversations with National Grid and the City of New York about timing and creation of schedule for all remediation processes, and especially for the placement and construction of the storm-water retention tanks.
EPA brings an informational presentation to the CAG about the storm-water retention tanks:
As the process moves forward, things become more complex and information is being put out by different organizations. Not all “facts” are always correct; Christos is here to “set the record straight”
- Part of construction plan is to build retention tanks
- Two tanks are needed, one at the top and one in the middle
- At the top of the Canal, one site option is currently Douglas Greene Park, and another potential site occupies three lots along the canal
Information being circulated:
- A flier distributed by Friends of Douglas Greene Park instructs “EPA to Make the Polluters Play” (obligated to do so by law) and also “Save the Double D Pool”
- Minutes from a different local meeting suggest that “Douglas Greene Park doesn’t need to be remediated unless the park is disturbed for construction like removal of the pool”
- A recent petition says “cleanup needs to be investment in the community, not theft of public parkland”
- Christos (EPA) assured the CAG that cleanup would not be theft of the land, but could result in capital improvement
- Sabine Aronowsky (CAG Member) countered that the Associate Commissioner of NYC DEP said that 1/3 of the park would not be returned to the community
- Christos suggested that the community needs to look at the investment in community: taking and paying for the takings of private property cannot benefit the whole community, but using the park site might in fact produce benefit
- What is in the park now?
- The park was formerly used for industrial purposes: gas and waste product manufacture as “Douglas St Store Yard”
- The pool is currently located above a site at which MGP tanks were located: hydrogen tank, oil tank, and oil purge tank
- There are currently significant columns of contamination beneath the pool
- Beyond the social components of “fighting the right fight” for Douglas Greene Park and the pool, there are engineering concerns
- To contain contaminants we can create a barrier wall and seal it from leakage of toxins into the canal; as they collect at the ‘sealed site’ they could be pumped away.
- We need to keep in mind what is happening, and take engineering and social conditions into account to select the correct site
- The City is not in favor of using the Park as a site because there is a cost to them to restore it, so they may have an interest in providing misleading information
Additional Questions (Follow Ups)
Q: Is the level of contamination at the Canal going to be a hazard to public health?
A: Cannot speak to that, State assessment isn’t out yet
Q: Will the toxic sludge pumping stations be a health hazard?
A: Unsure, feasibility study is due to be released soon-ish
Q: Can we build something on top of the tank?
A: Yes, that’s the point
Q: What happens if the city presents a plan that is not satisfactory?
A: If it makes sense from the point of view of the cleanup of the canal, we will consider it, but we (EPA) are clear about our intent to create a clean canal and will fight for the correct remedy
Point of Information: The city might be dragging out this decision as a delaying tactic, to slow the process down. Eminent domain would be an expensive and lengthy process, and the City and National Grid are good at that.
Response: EPA doesn’t like taking things from people and is going to suggest NOT using eminent domain; further, cost is a key importance, and the value of the land is much greater than the value of cleaning the canal
Q: Does EPA have a mechanism for understanding the increase in value caused by a cleanup?
A: Under certain circumstances. In this sense however it makes engineering sense.
Q: Isn’t the second site (along the canal) also a former MGP site and therefore won’t it still need to be remediated?
Point of Information: Fulton MGP caused a significant amount of contamination on many lots in the neighborhood. In all likelihood, while the contamination is being remediated elsewhere, it will be impossible to keep the park open during the construction of tanks and remediation of sites for location of the holding tanks anyway.
Clarification: Who are the Players in Cleanup?
- Cleanup of former MGP plants: responsibility of National Grid under the supervision of NY State
- Cleanup of the water in the canal: EPA
- We need to ensure that the material from contaminated sites does not reenter the canal
- We need to ensure that sewage from storm water overflow does not reenter the canal
Gowanus Canal Sediment Layers
Soft sediment is full of chemicals that collected over the lifetime of the canal as a busy manufacturing waterway. EPA will dredge this out, and send it away on barges.
There is also contamination in the original creekbed; it’s not practical to dig it out, so the EPA is going to put a cap on the creek bed to prevent recontamination of the cleaned water
Presentation Graphic about the temporary location remedial design. EPA will try out this process of remediation in a pilot phase from February to June to see if the remediation plan will be workable, and to make sure that engineering calculations are correct and former tests are correct.
TAG GRANT UPDATE
Technical assistance grant of $50,000 granted per superfund site to examine documents generated by EPA.
Marlene Donnelly of FROGG (CAG Member) gives update: grant is finalized and monies are available, it was not done prior to the Record of Decision because technical assistance was provided via TASK. Steve Forbes has been hired; he’s an expert in dredging, has worked abroad, and for Columbia, and does lots of work with regard to everything. He cannot do anything until EPA releases any information, but will break those things down for better public understanding,
Contact is FROGG.TAG at GMAIL.COM
We need to spend the money on things that REALLY need to be deciphered, and think strategically about how to spend the $50,000.
Meeting Monday at 9:15 a.m. at CB6
- Will review five applications for CAG membership, so that at the next general meeting we can meet the candidates and vote on them
- Admin committee reviews, decides to recommend, and can say why or why not
- Additional information might be present from a different committee meeting, though this was not appropriate, folks are allowed to update their applications
Q: Will the admin committee be reviewing attendance from the last year or two years?
A: Maybe we should review this again, but we continue to discuss what to do about this and then do not hold people to it. We will discuss this later.
Point of Information: Doug Sarno has been our facilitator for 13 meetings and there are still members he has never met.
Meeting was held on Friday, October 24
- Debriefed on meeting organized by Congresswoman Velazquez
- CAG needs to be clearer about its role in these kinds of events in the future, so we can be present a unified front at public meetings
- There is an upcoming Superfund Symposium, and there is need to discuss if someone will go to represent the CAG, and what he or she will say
Natalie Loney (EPA):
Now that there are three superfund sites around New York City, there will be a symposium to bring communities effected by these three sites together. Each site is at a different stage. The Symposium will take place on November 20th, at Brooklyn Borough Hall. Discussion about Superfund, what it is, what it means, what is to be expected, but also a conversation between communities and EPA, and one another.
**Natalie needs a representative of the CAG to provide a concise presentation on the history of the Gowanus CAG
Marianne Young (CAG Member): We have been trying to find a neutral spokesperson who can be the outside spokesperson who can communicate everything about the CAG in a neutral manner without being affiliated with an organization. One did get nominated (unclear where she went). We have overlooked our charter and ignored it, and should return to it and not function based on individual agenda
- Hoping to do another meeting towards Red Hook with Congresswoman Velazquez and Natalie engaging in educating and performing the function with Outreach and Participation. In the spring?
- Meeting for a clearer water quality position within the CAG with regard to retention tank sites
- Engagement with schools was discussed
- Engagement with NYCHA residents important
- Discussion of current membership and availability for new membership
- There is a short list of people we will talk to about representation for the symposium. We will reach out to them, this is seconded
Christos: Consultant for working with EPA during the rehabilitation of the Canal. Archeology Committee will work as this Consultant, and a small team will function as a consultant. So officially the CAG is the consultant.
Meeting Thursday night, 6:30, at conference room in Hotel Le Bleu.
WATER QUALITY COMMITTEE
Met this week, on the 14th.
- Concern about Riverkeeper reports with the canal as the highest level of contamination, where is the working flushing tunnel, where is the new river main to carry water away, can we get people to come and talk about this data and why
- Will invite Riverkeeper to present on data
- Invitation to City Comptroller Scott Stringer to have a conversation with him about DEP budget and spending
- City said that the Gowanus Long-Term Control Plan process will kick off soon: November 19th will be the first meeting. Who will be there, will EPA be there to lend their expertise?
Doug Point of Information: You cannot keep a charter if you cannot have structure. You cannot have it both ways, and we have been struggling with this for years
CAG lacks a voice and cannot seize opportunities to talk
DISCUSSION ABOUT THE FUTURE OF THE CAG and PLANNING
- Facilitation resources are being reduced; there will be fewer and fewer resources going forward. At the end of this month, Pat and Doug will be gone at least until March. The CAG needs to facilitate itself.
- Every committee needs to pick someone to be the facilitator
- Natalie can ‘traffic cop’ meetings
MOTION: Request to have Doug come back next month, and to have Natalie run the meeting next month in the event that he cannot
- November 18th meeting date has a conflict; December 2 is suggested as an alternate. What do we do about conflicts for new members? Neither meeting date is confirmed.
- CAG member makes the point that we need to have more facilitation, because we are coming up to some critical phases for decision-making
- Facilitation Committee needs to be a stronger leadership presence
- There should be a review of the charter in preparation for making these structural decisions affecting the future of the CAG.
DOUG: CAG official member count is at 60 members, high meeting attendance is at 26, low is 15, 11 have never ever shown up.
Upcoming Symposium at Brooklyn Borough Hall requires a CAG Spokesperson and CAG attendees.
Summary of Actions
MOTION: Reach out to nominated neutral spokespeople and see if they will attend symposium and represent the CAG. Seconded.
MOTION: Request to have Doug return next month, and have Natalie run the meeting next month in the event that he cannot. Seconded.
Topics for Future CAG meeting
Discussion of the structure of the CAG has been tabled as the meeting draws towards 9 pm. It will be the first topic of discussion at the next meeting, the date for which has not been solidified. EPA will work on securing funding to ensure the facilitation resources can be used for that important structural meeting. Members should review the charter and consider how they would define leadership and structure to create a more self-sufficient CAG.