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

Gowanus Canal CAG Meeting
Tuesday, November 28, 2017
Mary Star of the Sea Senior Apartments, 41 1st Street


Doug Sarno opened the meeting at 6:35.

The October meeting summary was approved with no revisions.

Townhall Meeting Recap

The town hall was long in planning with Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez’s office. For those on the CAG this information was well known, but for the outsiders it was good information. EPA staff were great and it was also helpful to meet the new EPA regional administrator. The main purpose was to provide community information and broaden the reach of the CAG. This is a big step in adding communication to the community as a CAG function.

Natalie Loney, EPA: agree it was a great success and good to see a lot of new people attend. People who had never come to a CAG meeting, or have not been engaged since the last big public meeting. In regard to comments, there was a question of how people would address the comment/question cards. We need to come up with a response to how questions from the public should be addressed

Project Updates

Christos Tsiamis, EPA Remedial Project Manager

First, about the November 16 town hall, it was a great outreach effort by the CAG. Kudos to those who worked hard on it, especially the outreach committee. At the last meeting I challenged the community to help people take care of the Gowanus and not pollute it. In response, the Dredgers put up signs saying not to pollute, and I was pleasantly surprised. Keep up the good work.

EPA received the 65% design for the upper part of the canal just before Thanksgiving and is reviewing it. EPA will not be starting the pilot at the beginning of December because of some unanticipated work related to the bulkheads. It will be starting in early January.

EPA has been meeting with the City for their part of the design for the underground CSO storage tanks. One is for design of the tanks, and this will start by 2020 if the city meets stipulations of the order. EPA is also working with the city for the design, excavation, and restoration of the canal and canal infrastructure.

Update on CSO Tank and 1st Street Turning Basin Designs

Kevin Clark, New York CIty Department of Environmental Protection

The City is moving forward on the design of the tank at the Head End Facility. In the spring of last year there were settlement details and milestones established to procure the needed properties to conduct this work.

On April 1, 2016 we began the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and issued the Draft EIS on October 1, 2016.

The NYC Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) needs to be completed by May 1, 2018, and is currently on target.

It is the city’s intention to purchase properties from willing sellers, however, if they can’t come to an agreement they will pursue eminent domain. If they can’t use this process, the city will move to file a petition to condemn on June 16, 2018. The City would expect to acquire title approximately two years after the petition, so around 4/30/2018.

The Design is being conducted in three phases:

  • Construction Package 1 includes demo of existing structures and decommissioning of utilities which was completed June 17, 2017. It was assumed that the 234 Butler St. pediment would stay and that is included in CP-1 Design.
  • Construction Package 2 includes excavation, removal, foundation, and tank walls. It is underway and will be completed by April 30, 2019.
  • Construction Package 3 includes superstructure, HVAC, process mechanical, electrical, and conveyance. We will issue notice to proceed for CP-1 no later than five months after May 2020.

CP-1 includes demolition of existing structure, disconnection of utilities, and security fence, pre-demo surveying, existing conditions report. it was submitted to EPA June 30, 2017 and now awaiting approval.

Pre-Design investigations include drilling, boring, treatability, and preliminary reports from preliminary investigations.

Excavation, Removal, and Facility Design plan serves as the basis of design reports and includes conceptual description of the facilities, pumps and data, the size of equipment, about 700 pages of materials. Signed off by the internal review group at DEP in November 2017. The 30% Design is in process.

City Environmental Quality Review (CEQR)

Includes an assessment and disclosure of the potential adverse significant environmental impacts from construction and operation of both CSO tank facilities. CEQR draft scope of work was completed in April 2017 and a public meeting held in May 2017. Draft EIS and final scope of work produced September 2017. Final EIS is in progress and available online.

Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP)

Application certified into review September 2017. Will likely complete April 2018. Meetings held with CB6 and Borough Hall, next will present to City Council, City Planning and Public Design Commission.

Held a conceptual review with the Public Design Commission (PDC) back in August. Will meet again in mid 2018 when the 60% design is completed. In Spring 2019, the final review at 90% design will be conducted and then a final sign off when it is complete to receive the approval of the PDC.

How CSO Facility Operates

During wet weather when the capacity of the sewer is exceeded, water would be diverted by setting of weirs to flow into the CSO facility.

Initially water flows into bar screens which remove solid material. A rake comes and removes large pieces and moves it elsewhere. The flow to the tanks happens variably – some settling may happen in this flow and it would occur there.

The next step sends the stored flow into de-gritters. Removes heavy inorganic material because otherwise it ends up deposited in the sewer. This process removes it from the flow into a dumpster and then it is sent to a landfill.

Secondary support program: heating, bathroom, control equipment. One of the most important features is odor control. Will be operated 365 days/24-7.

For the events that exceed the amount that can be stored in the tanks, the excess water is released into the canal. There’s a flushing situation which washes the cells out and pushes it toward the wet well to make it clean and ready for the next wet weather event.

The intention is to maintain a 50-foot setback from the canal. The superstructure is roughly going to take up the area along Nevins. The Department of Parks and Recreation would operate and maintain the space once constructed.

CAG: Is there a design and setback for the public space?

EPA: It is still totally conceptual and not yet in design so that isn’t being presented. We will see it once it isn’t conceptual. Not park space, but it is DEP space – wouldn’t be deeded parkland because city would have to come back and check out tops and stuff. DEP always needs access to entryways and tops of structures. This head-end plan view takes up more space now because it’s easier to operate and maintain, so excavates the contaminants less and less deeply.

The south end is intended to be staging. The shallowness will take up almost entirety of the two parcels.

For the alternative Thomas Greene Park site, influent and effluent conduits are laid out a little differently. Water goes through each of the cells but here the approach is to be as compact as possible in order to take away as little parkland as possible. Still coordinating with Parks Department on layout and still providing pool and locker rooms and other facilities.

At the Owl’s Head Site, the current proposal is an unconventional design because it fits entirely on the oddly shaped DSNY triangular lot on city owned property, which allows them to go in and do the preliminary and initial investigation so the design can advance. The cells are each individually sized and work based on the available footprint. The challenge is to fit the tank, but they think they’ve figured it out.

Basis of Design Reports were submitted to EPA on 11/27. Currently working on the superstructure architecture with the Public Design Commission. Also meeting with DPR for pool and parks programming.

EPA has ordered the city to build, has spent lots of time organizing plans. The design is going to happen quickly.

Questions and Answers

CAG: Are we going to be able to see the 65% designs? Will those be publically accessible?
EPA: What we’ve seen so far requires a lot of work – would like to share it once EPA has reviewed it – and then the PRPs update it based on EPA feedback.

CAG: What will happen to the building under historic preservation review?
EPA: If the process works out and the city has to construct the tank on the properties the EPA prefers – that site becomes part of the Superfund and has to abide by Superfund site laws. On the other hand, if the city fulfills its obligation from the order of consent, they will have to get direction from EPA. As project manager they are gathering information from state, State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), architects, and others, so in a few months they’ll make a determination of the value of the building. Preservation will take a lot of time and money. EPA has a letter from SHPO, so if the building has historic value but isn’t required to be preserved then the city can do whatever it wants. There could be other ways. There are ways of preserving what is historical about that building. All this – the EPA is involved as long as the decision on where to build is being made.

CAG: Why is it okay for old tank on Nevins to allow waste to go back into canal?
DEP: We are building to intercept discharges at RH34. Rainfall produces different volumes and the current design is 58-74% reduction, the amount required by the record. Building to a 100% capture is not cost-effective. There are 46 extreme events a year. The other 40 times it will be sent to a facility. Tank captures 8 to 9 million gallons, which provides cleaner water. Most events have the worst stuff at the beginning, and this captures the beginning stuff.

CAG: Why not build on other sites of the canal where some properties are for sale?
DEP: Better for Gowanus Flushing tunnel, lots of large conduits and putting those in is intrusive, unnecessary, time-consuming, affects gas and water lines. DEP wants to stay out of the street. It is the city’s preference to purchase property.

Public: We are property owners and have not been approached. The City is not taking brownfields into consideration, not taking rezonings into consideration, we have not received any offers. Have gotten a letter saying the city intends to acquire the property.

CAG: No presentation of the parks site to the PDC meeting – when will they see the park site and the salt lot site?
DEP: Pursuing ULURP for head-end site but not the alternatives at this time.
EPA: None of this is required for Superfund. The City is doing local activities that EPA does not require, so as long as they meet the deadlines they’re okay.

CAG: We want to know what the park location will look like and when the city approval groups will see those alternatives. Borough Hall is under the impression there is financial penalty if DEP doesn’t meet deadlines for preferred tank site?
EPA: EPA’s position has been and remains that tank goes in park for financial reasons – it is not the EPA’s intention to fine the City or imposing penalties – this is purely theoretical. If the EPA found out they were intentionally not complying with deadlines maybe, but don’t see that happening. There are no potential penalties for not going forward with the park-space proposal. EPA is trying to work with the City. Every order has a section on penalties.
DEP: In the park the construction estimates are higher than in the other parcels.

CAG: Follow up from last night – does the EPA have a problem coordinating with the City about barging construction materials?
EPA: An excavation that will take place for purpose of construction would not be able to barge to remove stuff. The EPA supports barging.

CAG: The north end of 280 Nevins at Sackett – is that in the staging area?
DEP: No, it is not.

CAG: Are the tanks still to the west of the playground area?
DEP: It would take the western two thirds of the park.
EPA: In the Record of Decision (ROD), the only places named were the park and the salt lot. Probably it will be necessary to use a different staging area than Eastern Effects Studio. South of the Park there is an open space, maybe they could negotiate a different deal, depending on who happens to be the owner of different space.

CAG: Where is the head house on the park site?
DEP: Over the first and second cells.

CAG: The flushing tunnel lowering weir to control, is that still happening?
DEP: Early next year.

CAG: Grit storage is indoor and odor controlled?
DEP: Correct.

CAG: Can the roofs have green roofs?
DEP: Yes, continuing to look at that.

CAG: If the space is taken closer to the canal, is that flush with the street?
DEP: At the top there’s about a five foot grade difference – very similar to grade of western end of Thomas Greene Park – looking to be able to decrease that.

CAG: What is the height?
DEP: We don’t have the 50-foot requirement.

CAG: If any new development happens – will it be 46 rain events still if upzoned?
EPA: We have to work with what exists – to date there is only Wyckoff zoned residential so what happens if city zones 10 more of those properties? It came into EPA’s thinking – some language is in the ROD that anticipates actions for development to give the EPA the power to negotiate in the future or direct what will be done when something is built. The latest development there has a graywater/blackwater requirement and comment from other agencies (city & state) under the impression that individual developments could not use. EPA wanted to make sure that water from Lightstone into the Bond Street sewer does not add an additional impact to the sewer. By the same time in the design, it takes out water in the calculations and design and it was not adding to the sewer because they had to pay for an oil and water separator at the canal which helps too. It is a good question so there is a requirement in the ROD to submit how their development will not add to sewer overflows to the EPA. FUREE had a good comment that buildings downstream may generate problems for the rest of the residents on the canal. If you take 1,000 galloons out of the 5,000 and treat it and send it to the water, then it won’t go to the canal. The City requires other groups to assess their developments. The sewershed is thousands of acres. It’s a complicated issue that may be difficult for EPA to oversee as zoning changes, we are looking case by case with one case and trying to build a mechanism.
DEP: tormwater regulations for new developments are stringent and must be good in order to get a permit to connect to water and sewer.

CAG: Is this the same presentation made for Borough Hall last night?
DEP: No, different purpose – different presentation.

CAG: Was there a slide showing the open space plan?
EPA: We asked DEP not to include that particular slide because it was too conceptual and didn’t want to discuss it or create misconceptions.

CAG: On the salt lot – will DSNY be thrown off that spot when finished? Where will they store salt when finished? Will there be a green roof with public access?
DEP: Right now, it would be to acquire adjacent lots “entire peninsula” permanently and provide staging area and then have everyone back after construction.

CAG: Is the salt lot happening now?
DEP: Design is slightly behind because facilities planning and process with wastewater treatment is happening at same time.

CAG: What happens 365 days 24-7?
DEP: The Odor control and monitoring.

CAG: There will be someone there?
DEP: It is unmanned.

CAG: Will there be local jobs training related? And hiring?
DEP: They’re hiring now. Have to take a test, would encourage people to take civil service tests.

CAG: Can we have a promise that there won’t be any delay? (i.e., not over the park, not over a historic preservation of a building).
EPA: There will be no delay – EPA makes the determination based on what the state says about whether it is possible within superfund or extraneous.

CAG: Are you treating bacteriologicals in the facility?
DEP: No, it isn’t designed for that but preparing the designs so it could be added later.

CAG: What is the life expectancy of the facility?
DEP: 50 years for structural – 5 to 20 for equipment, piping has shorter lifespans but gets replaced.

CAG: Where does the money come from?
DEP: Water and Sewer Rates.

CAG: So those will go up to pay for these?
DEP: That is difficult to say.

CAG: Is landmarks included in the scoping?
DEP: Yes, we’ve met with them and they are included in regards to 234 Butler.

CAG: When will section 108 NEPA get underway? In regards to consultation meetings with anyone involved.
EPA: Yes, underway now – the MOU will be placed in a couple months and currently abiding by S106 and following along and there’s no fundamental difference in those processes and still evaluate those concerns and wait to hear from SHPO. Years away from anything being taken away.

CAG: Do you consider the Butler site under S106 because it is a city action?
EPA: It’s a federal site and potential, so yes.

CAG: What is the method of ensuring safety of health and children of those using park – like where are the fences?
DEP: It will be completely enclosed – there’s a building and then a roof over all the cells and a railing adjacent to the Gowanus.
EPA: The design is not at that stage yet.

CAG: Will there be community planning for final input?
EPA: Yes, it will be presented to the public and all the City forums allow public comment so it gets to the City to reassess multiple times before it even gets to the EPA. If you want items such as green roofs, get them adopted as conditions for approval from the city and then EPA looks at it and approves.

Update on the 1st Street Turning Basin Designs

Also in the ROD was a requirement to restore the 1st Street Turning Basin.

Pre-design investigation: underwater bulkhead inspections and multi-beam sounding survey conducted in May 2017. Adjacent buildings research and inspections conducted September 2017. Tree surveys conducted summer through September.

Soil sampling and groundwater sampling found NAPL which was not surprising. Looked into permeability to see if excavation can exist in wet or the dry. Engineering evaluation and design alternatives are underway in consultation with EPA – that design includes removal of soil, installation of a cap, installation of a 20-foot-wide wetland shelf along the northern and eastern sides of the restored basin.

CAG: Do the designs of the new bulkheads provide any ability for safe exit?
EPA: There won’t be any public waterfront access. This is surrounded by private property – it isn’t an issue unless you’re canoeing. We encourage local property issues to be discussed locally and not here.

CAG: This is about planning for the future, we would want a safety ladder.
EPA: Recognize interest and working with property owners. It is not within EPA scope to place these regulations or reforms.

Committee Reports


Tried to set something up but didn’t have a meeting – looking at attendance – will be delivering an email asking about intentions for membership for next year.


Met and is going to send a letter on old resolution for the building to be saved.


Will hold a December 5 meeting.

Will coordinate with EPA to get the questions from the town hall answered. Was thinking of bringing any questions that the CAG is going to answer to the full CAG. Goal is to have the community have answers that would be helpful.

Land Use

Will hold a December 5 meeting.

Water Quality/Technical

There will be a December meeting


Other Announcements

City Council is having Wastewater Stormwater meeting next Wed 12/13 at 10 AM, we will distribute the announcement.

The meeting adjourned at 8:45


CAG Members and Active Alternates

Jerry Armer
Jen Benson (alternate for Sean Dixon)
Dave Briggs
Beverly Corbin
Marlene Donnelly
Rafael Gomez de Luna
Ben Jones
Katia Kelly
Louis Kleinman
Hildegard Link
Linda Mariano
Eric McClure
Andrea Parker
Peter Reich
Triada Samaras
Buddy Scotto
Brad Vogel
Sue Wolfe (alternate for Sabine Aronowsky)
Maryann Young (alternate for Rita Miller)

Others Present

Doug Sarno, Facilitator
Brian Carr, USEPA
Natalie Loney, USEPA
Christos Tsiamis, USEPA

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