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Gowanus Canal CAG General Meeting
Tuesday, May 28, 2019
Mary Star of the Sea Senior Apartments, 41 1st Street


CAG Facilitator Doug Sarno opened the meeting at 6:35. 

There are two upcoming community meetings of interest: the EPA Superfund Town Hall, sponsored by the CAG with Congresswoman Velazquez on May 29, and the Citizens MGP site meeting with NYS DEC on June 13.

Project Updates

Christos Tsiamis, EPA Remedial Project Manager, presented the updates.

Believe it or not, there is not much to tell you. I was here in February. A lot of work has been taking place these past months. Engineering. Logistics arrangements. It is more complicated from my perspective. Trying to think where we finished last time. A number of design documents – as we mentioned in the last meeting, the most important – next month, we’re going into action mode in the canal. 

First, the construction of the cobbled wall in front of the Fulton MGP site from the top of the canal to Union Street on the east/Park Slope side. There will be a continuous sealed sheet pile wall that will prevent tar from entering the canal from the former Fulton MGP site. This work will be done by GGA, the engineers working with National Grid. This aspect is part of the Record of Decision (ROD) for the Fulton Manufactured Gas Plant site. Starting in June, you’ll notice barges. There will be lots of preparation on the land, the side near the existing bulkheads, surveys, and also construction of a noise barrier that will be placed to accommodate the needs of Eastern Effects [film production studio]. The next couple of months, we’ll have to remove any debris that will be there. There will be barges with equipment there. 

Following that, approximately September to November, there will be equipment in the canal to auger. They will try to soften ground with the silent hydraulic press with no noise and no vibrations, and then along that length from top of canal to Union – this is a lesson learned from the pilot. When we brought in the hydraulic press, we learned it could go at some segments along Whole Foods, and then some that could not advance, so what we had to do was retrofit the press with an auger. It was very, very time consuming, so in discussion with contractors, we plan to do the augering first, and then do the construction. Come November, we will start the 55-foot-long sheet piles from the top of canal to Union Street. Sheet piles will be sealed, and that will be all that we do on that side. They have gotten enough pressure from me to keep to the schedule as much as possible. We will be finished with the Park Slope side by June 2020. The problem for me is at the same time as this wall, sheet piles will be placed at the other wall. This wall will be finished by December 2019. It is beyond my control, so now I’m faced with the situation where there will be many things in that small environment. We will still try to maintain the schedule. There are solutions, but it does present a management problem for us.

The second update is on the city side. The city was obligated by administrative order to submit the design package for excavation and support at the top of the canal by April 30. Th city submitted it April 30, and EPA is reviewing it. The city is obligated to submit the third package of design – conveyance and tank construction – by December 30 under the administrative order of consent issued in 2016. In 2014, there was another order that covered everything else. Under the 2014 order, the city is obligated to put a tank in the middle of the canal (across from Whole Foods). They have done some design and some geo-tech work. We are making progress with the dredging part. The EPA submitted a timeline for the design by the deadline of May 17, and that is under review. 

Finally, I want everybody to know that EPA submitted comments to the draft scope for the EIS that the city put out for the Gowanus rezoning. The comments were forwarded to the CAG. I do want to say one thing – something I saw in the press which I will clarify. I saw something in the press that said EPA said there will be no impacts of the zoning on the remedy. I called the press officer and just before that quoted that, “the ROD requires that there will be no impacts.” We say and also in our comments that we require that there will be no impacts. We will be asking for a lot of information and that is a clarification. 

CAG: Mid canal tank – do you know when the City will submit it to the Public Design Commission? 

EPA: No, not off the top of my head. 

CAG: What about tunnel vs. tank?

EPA: Let me put it this way. I’ve been working on this project for nine years. During that time a lot of ideas have come across my desk, so we look at these ideas, and we act or we don’t act, but we continue with our work. The last idea that came across – why don’t we dredge the canal, mix with cement and put it back into the canal? The first idea is why do we need tanks? Why any controls on the CSO? In the very beginning, that was the first idea, and it was put in with fervor, we considered it. Aren’t you glad we didn’t do that? There’s a lot of information. There’s a timeline. We’re acting on our plan. We will talk to you about it. Back to what I said in February– we’re going to talk about it [with EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez]. 

CAG: Somebody called me to check [the figures about the Gowanus rezoning estimates], are these right: 179 thousand gallons to over a million gallons? 

EPA: Closer to two million. Yes, that was in the statement of work – it doesn’t take commercial into account, and when the city proposes/projects it, it will be closer to two million.

CAG What is the maximum the tanks can hold?

EPA: Not that easy to calculate. We want to ensure there will be no impacts [from the rezoning to the remediation of the canal] – it is an enormous amount, so we’ll have to look at the numbers. It is our job to make sure the canal stays clean, and the ROD restates that. In the coming weeks and months and years, we’ll be asking the city and developers to take measures. We did that with Lightstone; this is a more complicated situation so that’s why we put out what we did. 

CAG: How will the EPA move forward in regard to whatever is approved? Just days following the storm, DEP was on site pumping out the sewer. The sewer isn’t doing this from one building. 

EPA: I saw those pictures on Katia [Kelly]’s website. There was a company called Flow. There is a vortex and separator, and from time to time, it has to be maintained. The city right now is beginning to put things into effect: the oil/water separator and the place to add it. I still had additional concerns – there is a program in place because they have installed a high-level sewer on Third Avenue, and right now the ball is in my court. 

CAG: So the multiplying of DCP is done and we’re waiting to have it monitored?

EPA: Right, only storm-sewer estimates at this point. 

CAG: Clearly there was a clog – there’s something in place draining into it at Lightstone. 

EPA: We’ll look into it. 

CAG: If there was a fairy godmother that said no rezoning, would you recalculate the tank calculations? 

EPA: Our ROD addresses the problems as we saw them at that time. We did not anticipate problems at these conditions. The city and the developers would have to get me different measurements. 

CAG: You mentioned a noise barrier – longer range, does anyone know how long the studio will be intact? Also, is there any idea when the building will be leveled for staging?

EPA: No.

CAG: The timing is going to overlap – can you talk about what kind of strategies you can try to employ to accelerate timing? 

EPA: Across the canal is a company called Bayside. They have a property – they will be designing and are designing a bulkhead to minimize the erosion and construction. The more difficult part is next to the tunnels and the CSOs. We can perhaps advance the wall quickly so there is space for the construction. The people doing the bulkheads, we can ask them, but this is just my thoughts right now. 

CAG: Have you explored how a high velocity sewer would work? If there’s a storm, that won’t work. 

EPA: EPA has to exclude as much water surface as possible. There are some different designs. Had to make sure we don’t block the Flushing Tunnel.

CAG: Still in process?

EPA: Some of the contractors. I went there and the portion of the bottom land of it like sheet pile. Want you to appreciate the common problem out there. 

CAG: Never heard the conversation around Red Hook Waste Water Treatment Plant. I know this conversation has been about holding the runoff until it can go somewhere else. Do you know the Red Hook capacity, and let’s say each development puts in their own detention. If everyone builds the most and it stops raining and now it needs to be discharged?

EPA: Thanks for bringing that up; will ask the city. 

CAG: How much of that goes to Owl’s Head? 

EPA: Will ask the city that too. 

CAG: Thanks Christos for that statement [from the EPA comments submitted on the Gowanus Rezoning Environmental Impact Statement].

Resolutions and Amendments: 

Two resolutions were put forward, both building on previous actions. A quorum was present, comprised of 18 voting members.

234 Butler Street

The Archaeology Committee put forward the motion. Besides saving/preserving building, the committee is seeking that an independent assessment be conducted. 

A number of friendly amendments were offered regarding wording. 

The Resolution passed. 14 Yes, 1 opposed, 2 abstaining. 

DEP/DCP coordination

The Water Quality Committee put this forward, as it was held over from the April meeting. The CAG’s intent is to ask for greater coordination and communication between the DEP and DCP with regard to the activities pertaining to the canal.

The Resolution passed. 18 Yes

Committee Reports 

Leadership Committee

Did not meet.

Admin Committee

Did not meet – hoping to meet early next week.

Water Quality and Technical Committee

Potentially inviting DEC to talk about water body designation in relation to the rezoning. Also CSO volume and water classification.

Archaeology Committee

The interim storage agreement has been signed for the artifacts by all parties.

Land Use Committee

It is possible the tidal gate is being blocked; Peter is to follow up with DEP 

Outreach Committee 

Follow up about the upcoming Superfund Townhall. Sabine secured the permit for the school, and Christine Petro has been fantastic, Dan Wiley, Natalie, last shout out. Everyone please promote the event. This will be similar to the November 2017 town hall event. Andrea and Eric will do a quick overview and lay out ground rules. Questions submitted on written cards from the public so there can be as much Q&A as possible. The idea is for EPA to explain where we are and where they expect we’re going in the next 12-18 months. The Regional Administrator will talk for 10 minutes. Congresswoman Velazquez will speak about the EPA on the national level. 

Land Use and the CAG voted to have the North Gowanus Visioning Group come up with a report. At some point it should come to us asking them about the vision or a summary of what had happened. 

CAG: Of the 14 CSOs, how much goes to Red Hook and how much to Owl’s Head? The Can Factory has been looking to expand. Would the CAG be interested to see the original vision, but mainly how it is addressing stormwater and sewage? (The CAG is interested, should connect at the committee level.)

The Department of City Planning has announced there will be a Gowanus Industrial Group meeting June 12 2-5 pm, or 9 am to noon, at the Bell House. 

The meeting adjourned at 8:30 PM.

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