Posted by & filed under Frontpage, NYS DEC, Resolutions, Water Quality & Technical.

At its September 24, 2019 general meeting, the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group passed the following resolution empowering the CAG to formally submit a petition to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation requesting that the Gowanus Canal be reclassified from Class-SD to Class-I.

The resolution reads as follows:

Resolved, that the EPA Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group (CAG) formally submit a request for water reclassification or a “reclass petition” to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), Division of Water, Bureau of Water Assessment and Management. The CAG seeks to reclassify the surface waters of the Gowanus Canal through the State’s formal rule making process from its current industrial designation of Class-SD to Class-I. The current Class-SD designation mandates a minimal level of dissolved oxygen be maintained in the waters, but places no limit to levels of pathogens present in the waterway and is not protective of current and future recreational uses, which include contact recreation for families and children. A Class-I designation would impose limits on pathogen levels, both coliform and enterococci bacteria, and is necessary to ensure that children and others are not exposed to dangerous diseases due to a simple act of coming into contact with the water while recreating in, on, or at the canal.


Since 2008, the community has advocated for reclassification of the Gowanus Canal. Under a 2005 Consent Order with the NYSDEC, a CSO Waterbody/Watershed Facility Plan (WWFP) was prepared by NYCDEP in September 2007. This plan concluded that the Class-SD designation was not compatible with the goals of the Clean Water Act and would normally require reclassification as part of the State’s review process. At this time, NYCDEP recommended that consideration be given to the development of a new waterbody classification of “Urban Tributary” where wet weather conditions were recognized in the designation of uses and water quality criteria. 

In March 2012, the Gowanus CAG passed its first resolution, by unanimous vote, to reclassify the surface waters of the Gowanus Canal from Class-SD to a water classification protective of recreational uses. In 2015, the CAG submitted formal public comments to DEC and NYC DEP on the Gowanus Long-Term Control Plan (LTCP) further urging both agencies to adopt a water quality standard consistent with use before LTCP approval. Most recently (November 2018), in response to a proposed neighborhood rezoning, the CAG urged NYC DCP to submit a reclassification petition to support proposed future land use on the waterfront. To date, these actions have not yielded acceptable results and further action by the CAG is required to initiate a reclassification of the Gowanus Canal. 


  • Excerpt from September 2007 Waterbody/Watershed Facility Plan for the Gowanus Canal  
  • March 2012 Resolution for Reclassification of the Gowanus Canal 
  • June 2015 CAG Public Comments on Gowanus LTCP
  • November 2019 Resolution Incorporating CHANGE IN USE CLASSIFICATION of Gowanus Canal Water Body into Proposed Land Use and Rezoning proposed for the Gowanus district
  • DEC Water Reclassification Request “Reclass Petition” form 
  • Water Quality Classification Fact Sheet 


Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Walter Mugdan, Superfund Division Director, USEPA
Christos Tsiamis, Gowanus Canal RPM, USEPA
Natalie Loney, Gowanus Canal CIC, USEPA
NYC Councilmember Carlos Menchaca, District 38
NYC Councilmember Brad Lander, District 39
NYC Councilmember Stephen Levin, District 33
Community Board 6
Peter D. Fleming, Chairperson, Community Board 6
Mike Racioppo, District Manager, Community Board 6

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