Posted by & filed under EPA Updates, Frontpage, General Meetings, NYC DEP.

Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group Meeting
Tuesday, June 30, 2015
41 1st Street, Brooklyn NY 11231, Mary Star of the Sea, Community Room


Report from Christos Tsiamis, EPA Project Manager for the Gowanus Canal Cleanup

The EPA Pilot Study on the Canal ends on July 1, 2015.

EPA has met with National Grid and its contractors to advance the design for the remediation of the canal cleanup. The EPA has also met with NYC DEP’s Kevin Clark and his team. Both meetings were very productive. Design of the cap along the bottom of the canal and the in situ stabilization study for cleanup, which was applied at the 7th street basin and could be the basis for the rest of the remedy, is proceeding well.

In situ stabilization technology will keep the contaminants below the cap from de-stabilizing and overwhelming the cap that EPA will place along the bottom of the canal. The technology will help to prevent recontamination of canal waters from toxins leeching up from the sediment below. The technology must be studied before it is applied canal-wide, as it is not yet tested in these conditions and the correct concrete mixture must be identified. The in situ stabilization pilot effort has been very successful, and represents the first cleanup action for this part of the canal. The project is finishing on time.


CAG Member: What is the lifespan?

Christos: This is the first application of this technology in salty water, and we are going to be testing for the lifetime, but the design of the cap that goes over it will be constructed for 100 years.

CAG Member: Do you have everything you need?

Christos: We have a few more tests that need to be completed, but we have the raw data we need to complete the design.

CAG Member: What happens to the liquid portion of the contamination?

Member: The liquid is stabilized by being solidified by the mixture, some of it might be squeezed out into an adjacent column.

MOTION: Water Quality/Technical Committee

The Committee reads the previously approved statement of the recent Water Quality resolution regarding the reclassification of the Gowanus Canal from Industrial Use to Recreational Use. This statement is geared towards the Long-Term Control Plan, which has an unacceptable water-quality classification, as the current classification does not limit pathogens to protect community health.

Motion to submit this letter as CAG comment on the Long-Term Control Plan: Motion passes

The CAG Presents the letter to the NYC DEP Commissioner Emily Lloyd.


The DEP has made recommendations for the locations of the required CSO retention tanks. Sites under consideration included canal-adjacent as well as the Thomas Greene Playground.

NYC Parks Commissioner Silver presents on the Thomas Greene Playground and Douglas and Degraw Pool, highlighting the lack of open space in the neighborhood, obesity, and high rates of use of the pool. “Nothing comes close to the uses and usage of Thomas Greene Park.”

Commissioner Lloyd:

EPA has indicated that the Park site is contaminated and could be offline for up to four years for cleanup and restoration, and has asked the DEP/EPA to work with the city to identify temporary open space.

RH-034 Site is Canal Adjacent: Estimated construction cost of $490 million (at 10% design of project, meaning could be 30% lower to 50% higher), and is an efficient choice involving a head house, tanks, and easy access. The head house is an important component of the project as it offers odor control, tank maintenance and capacity, and screens to keep the facility as less of a nuisance for the public.

RH-034 Alternative Site would locate the tank on top of the Double D pool and handball site of Thomas Greene Park. Estimated construction cost of $580 million (at 10% design, meaning it could be 30% lower to 50% higher). This site is less convenient because it requires a longer “conveyance” to bring the CSO to the tank. In order to build the tank the construction site would be shut down for 8 to 9 years for construction, and 20% of the park would be lost to the physical construction of the head house.



RH-034 V. 2.0: Tank would be under the pool, but the head house located across the street. The park would still have to be disrupted for 8 to 9 years, and the city would still have to acquire additional land, and the facility will be less efficient. Estimated construction cost of $650 million.

RH-034 V. 3.0: Tank would be below the surface of the park, but there would be no head house. The park would be closed for 8 to 9 years, there would be continued accumulation of grit and floatables in the tank, and reduced odor management. This would require more maintenance, which is very odorous, and would also require closures of the park during maintenance, for an estimated 5-10 days, an estimated five times per year.


OH-007: Preferred site is #1, and is on Sanitation Department land with minimal acquisition of private property, and is surrounded by the canal. Would temporarily displace sanitation functions, but eventually they would be able to return. Sanitation is interested in working with the DEC. Gowanus Canal Conservancy also uses the site.


CAG Member: Six acres should be a park that was acquired for creating ball fields, and is currently under consideration for the construction of affordable housing.

 CAG Member: Why does the pool need to be disrupted? I was under the impression that work could take place beneath the pool? Who is paying for this? How did four years of disruption become eight years of disruption?

Commissioner Lloyd: I may have misspoken; we always knew that we would not be able to complete the work without moving the pool. This is why we prefer alternative sites.

Clarification: Contamination is in the pool area, and this is where the excavation and cleanup would need to take place.

CAG Member: Potential disruption of 4 to 9 years: can you discuss plans to ensure that the community has access to an alternative pool and recreational facilities.

Commissioner Silver: There are many options and amenities, and given these the NYC Department of Parks is looking into an ADA-accessible pool to temporarily replace the in-ground pool at Thomas Greene Park.

CAG Member: Is it possible to have free van service from the out-of-use pool to the Red Hook pool during disruption?

Commissioner Lloyd: We can look into that

CAG Member: These images don’t look like us, or our parks.

Commissioner Silver: When it is time to redesign the pool section of the park there will be community meetings to discuss the new park facility.

CAG Member: What kind of public access and park space could be provided at the site of the retention tanks?

Commissioner Lloyd: We would provide canal access, and access to any areas we don’t need to operate would be available.

CAG member: What will this cost?

Answer: The cost for cleaning up the retention tank sites is included in the estimate. Cost is not the driving factor in the canal.

CAG Member: You mentioned trucking to remove waste from the tanks. How many trucks and how often, and why not use the canal to barge?

Commissioner Lloyd: We aren’t there yet, but let us come back to another meeting and discuss those issues.

CAG Member: Why should we have to go to Red Hook, it is already crowded. It is far away. Provide a temporary site.


Councilmember Brad Lander requests more information on the order to cleanup the former Fulton MGP site (currently in use as Thomas Greene Park). While the NYS DEC claims that the Fulton MGP site does not require remediation (unless there is a use change), EPA seems to be confident that cleanup will occur. The DEC has not yet issued a cleanup order to National Grid, and so park remediation has yet to begin. Contamination on this site is the responsibility of National Grid.

A representative from National Grid states that the company is installing a barrier as a way to prevent recontamination from the moving tar plume at the Fulton MGP site from entering the canal waters, and National Grid is hopeful that can be completed before the tanks happen.


CAG Member: Can the park be designed as low as possible to act as a floodable piece of infrastructure to bring the park design in line with resiliency goals to alleviate flooding in the neighborhood?

Commissioner Silver: Thanks for the recommendation; we will use our resiliency guidelines post-Sandy.

CAG Member: If you are breaking the cement cap on the park to excavate one part of the park, will you need to excavate the rest of it?

Commissioner: Unclear.

CAG Member: What criteria will EPA use to evaluate the various alternatives presented and what kind of information will we have to help us handle the technical aspects of these plans?

Christos Tsiamis: We are on record and have expressed our technical concerns about the siting evaluations.

CAG Member: When will the EPA make its final decision, and when will drawings of the proposals be made available?

Christos Tsiamis: Decision will be made in fall and then the design team will be convened.

CAG Member: How big are the tanks and how much of the CSO reduction will they cover? How close will this get us in meeting the level above SD classification for water quality.

DEP: Eight million gallons for RH34, four million gallons for 007, based on ROD guidelines. The data suggests that the canal is at primary contact classification now, after subsequent upgrades to pumping stations and force mains.

CAG Member: What I like about this plan is that an extra site gets cleaned up. What I fear about this plan is that it opens the door to allow PAH’s and other toxic contaminants to remain in the pool and park area as National Grid is not interested in actually cleaning up. We cannot leave that level of contamination in the site, in the heart of the neighborhood.

Commissioner Lloyd: We feel that location of the retention tank in the park is not the best way to guarantee that the pool site gets cleaned up, but that the EPA needs to determine how to clean that up.

CAG Member: Will the City purchase additional private property to guarantee that we have park space? Suppose you clean the site, suppose you clean the canal. Will you provide more park space to offset unhealthy conditions?

Silver: The intent of cleaning up the park is to take out the contamination and put the pool back in a clean place.

CAG Member: There are seven parcels of land that make up the Fulton MGP site, and we all want to see the highest cleanup happen. With regard to the construction of the sewage tank odor control, disruption, and health risks: are there no risks to putting a pool on top of the sewage tank? Are there pathways for contamination in the event that there is some issue at the tank?

Commissioner Lloyd: If there is a tank beneath it, the DEP thinks that a head house needs to be on top of it. The DEP thinks the absence of a head house could be an issue.


Archaeology Committee

Wishes to meet with the DDC team working on the 1st Street basin.

Is preparing a list with a map of 13 Brownfield applications.

Outreach Committee

Held a small meeting to begin working on the draft communications plan.


Motion to submit Water Quality Classification Letter as CAG comment on the Long-Term Control Plan: Motion passes & letter is presented to NYC DEP Commissioner Lloyd at the meeting.


CAG Members:

Sabine Aronowsky
Jewel Barker
Beth Bingham
JoeAnn Brown
Diane Buxbaum
Beverly Corbin
Theresa Davis
Michelle de la Uz
Lucy DeCarlo
Eymund Diegel
Marlene Donnelly
Louis Kleinman
Ariel Krasnow
Eric McClure
John McGettrick
Rita Miller
Andrea Parker
Triada Samaras
Buddy Scotto

Additional Participants:

Ibrahim Abdul-Matia
Ken Bruce
Connie Chan
Brad Cocke
Jenry Cortes
Lindsay Deguelche
George Denesis
Susannah Drake
Jenny Franco
Davey Ives
Sara James
Ptahra Jeppe
Mark Ladow
Brad Lander
Chris Len
Eric Mattes
Erin Ralph
Sandy Serrano
Rachel Spector
Eileen Trilli
Pad VanRassen
Daniel Wiley
Sue Wolfe
Catherine Zinnel

Comments are closed.