Posted by & filed under Committee Meetings, Frontpage, NYS DEC, Remediation Work, Water Quality & Technical.

Proposed Agenda: 

  • NYS Superfund Cleanup Work at MGP’s
  • Reclassification Petition UPDATE
    Waiting on letter of support to submit
  • Jan 8 NYS DEC hearing on reclassification standards;  open public comment period through Jan 13
  • Army Corp Presentation to CAG – coordination update
  • Committee Administrative updates – attendance, procedures for 2020


Marlene Donnelly
Peter Reich
Diane Buxbaum
Katia Kelly
Eymund Diegel
Terri Thomson
Louis Kleinman
Amy Motzny
Kelsey Butterworth
Richard Lawrence 

Summary and Follow-up Items 

NYS Superfund Cleanup Work at MGP’s:

  • WQ/Technical Committee concern about remediation process and long-term impact of development on MGP sites. Committee to invite DEC, NYS DOH, and National Grid to present on technical aspects of the process to the CAG at January or February general meeting.  
  • It was suggested that a brownfield tech specialist and/or an environmental scientist be present to provide an exact description of the cleanup and capping and the long-term monitoring for (a) runoff and (b) human health issues – both on land and air, and his/her analysis of the cleanup/capping as being sufficient to protect human health.
    • Marlene to coordinate with Doug on dates 
    • Amy to circulate initial list of technical questions for committee review; send to DEC before CAG presentation 

Water Reclassification Petition:

  • Waiting on letters of support from the following:

    Committed but not received*
    JoAnne Simon – State Assembly District 52
    Felix Ortiz- State Assembly District 51
    Brad Lander – NYC City Council District 39
    Steve Levin – NYC City Council District 33

    No Response*:
    Velmanette Montgomery- State Senate District 25
    Zellnor Myrie – State Senate District 20
    Nydia Velazquez – US Congressional District 7
    Carlos Menchaca – NYC City Council District 38
  • CAG to send final petition by end of January with whatever letters are received at that point. 
  • Kelsey to reach out to Menchaca’s office 

NYS DEC Hearing on Classification Standards: 

  • State proposal to change the language on water classification standards, including suitability of Class I and SD to no longer support fish propagation and primary contact recreation. 
  • Amy to circulate template letter for individuals to send to DEC before Jan 13 comment period 

DEC Division of Water presentation to CAG: 

  • Once Reclass Petition is submitted, Amy to coordinate with DEC on presentation to General CAG; rescheduling of 2019 meeting that did not take place 

Army Corp Presentation on Barrier Study: 

  • CAG to invite Army Corps to present on local impacts of potential barrier construction in Gowanus and across NYNJ Harbor; Chrissy to follow-up with Doug about dates (February or March); WQ/TECH Comm to prepare materials to prep CAG on context and questions. 

Full Notes (Caroline Todd): 

Edgar Freud, sierra club, Engineer 2002 42 in flushing tunnel – Kevin Clarke was doing the design drawings – DEP didn’t change one thing even though there was community input in 2004. Supposed to build the tunnel by 2006. That’s why the EPA got involved. DEP stubbornly dug their heels and never take to heart the things that are said and now we have a holding tank at the top of the canal. 

Standard for government to have calls and input and comments and not listening to anything that is said. Very different than anything else we’ve ever experienced. Here in NY there’s been a change in the attitudes of the new guys in DEP and DEC in Land Use – I see it [others shake head no] more in the past ten years. A lot of people are the same. 

Getting the DEC here to meet about the MGP sites – those overseeing the superfund work and the NYS dept of health – they usually come in tandem – whether we have specific questions or want to do prep work – do we want to formulate specific questions on this: supposed to remove they want to remove less than 8 feet – doesn’t have to be the same volume across the board – and they’ve been in the process of putting up a tent – people have no idea there’s a cleanup going on there. 

When you think about how Thomas Greene became a park it was an MGP site and then given to the community and then people turned it back to the park and then Public Place in the 1960s, Katia Kelly spent time researching these sites – Rita and Maryanne CORE cancer town – the guardian toxic landfill people can’t sell houses or open windows – EPA had cleaned it up – land was filled with high levels of the landfill and contaminated space – lots of carcinogens – this is a question for DEC. 

There is a longitudinal health test – most cancer clusters are from the arterial air pollution corridor – primary health concern is air contamination from the diesel exhaust along the BQE, so a lot of the health problems are not directly related to the brownfield but are coincidentally related because a lot of brownfields are located in areas where they overlap. 

Cruise Ship pollution risk assessment 

Concerned about what is being left in the ground; on the other hand, we can’t compare NY to Louisiana. Covers and protective mechanisms that are so advanced and strongly protective – the membrane is a plastic hefty bag to say don’t dig below this barrier. 

We need to change the term because we’re not cleaning we’re containing it – the last piece is that the Russian govt built a structure over the reactor to contain things for a hundred years. A hundred years goes by, 30 years go by, in 100 years, they’re going to have to cover it again. There’s reliability and the developers don’t 

Unclear who takes the responsibility/liability on brownfield sites – NY State or developer – Four-level capping was sufficient to protect the neighborhood. This technology is so new we don’t know if it will last 50 years – this was re: MGP sites so that’s why there’s a constant check – it won’t hold. We’re paying for the cleanup – 

If we’re not removing the coal tar how do we know it doesn’t migrate left and right – it affixes itself to native soil/land – so we want to make sure it won’t be everywhere 

NYS has the most rigorous MGP program in the country – why does Lowe’s site still have tanks/wells? Let’s ask these questions to DEC. 

If you have an anti-development agenda, you have to State standards don’t address infants, pregnant/nursing mothers – create additional liability. Offgassing is a concern

You create risk when you build a structure on top to gather the gas. 

Garden tables – Public place so you have above ground planters that you shouldn’t dig there.

There will be open wells, you can have off gassing through the foundation – there’s nothing there to say it will be safe. If this was true there was no risk, the liability wouldn’t be passed to taxpayers. 

What percentage of the property [public place] will be capped? to go online to see the draft plan, way back to the beginning 

What does the remedial process involve? 

Does the mitigation or relief whether a hefty bag or whatever does that cause an issue with water than may then exacerbate water permeation – has that been part of the discussion? Yes running through the canal – MS4 runoff regulations all should be filtered. 

Some committee discussion/disagreement about whether or not land use as part of the DEC Brownfield Program should be discussed as part of the Superfund when not pertaining to runoff in the Canal, which would have to be approved by EPA. 

Reclassification petition – still haven’t submitted that petition – whatever Amy has by the end of January will be sent –

January 8 there is a NYS DEC hearing on reclassification standards and the public comment period ends January 13. Send Marlene’s comments to Doug so others can send/think about what they might want to send. 

The DEC day for brownfield comments was all Dec 24. 

Reissuing has to do with fish population not fish propagation and biggest problem with that is that the state does not define – what is it that determines you can’t meet the next criteria? Where if there’s a bubbling spring or something causing the criteria sure that may make sense but if it is all man made we should be able to do better – we shouldn’t have to be stuck in class SD unless that is really strictly defined. 

WQ determination is based upon use – not whether or not it can be clean but its use about 

Part of what we should be discussing is documentation of current use(s). We’ve been trying it for 15 years so you shouldn’t just throw it away. 

They need to build bigger pipes but that puts them into legal action instead of engineering solutions – Eymund is being exposed to things that don’t meet the clean water act and that is a sewable offense. DEC is suing the city over the Alley Creek Plant. City has hired lawyers instead of engineers. Can’t start a fishing farm in gowanus and claim damages. 

Reasonable use of current water – that should be what the classification – was reviewing notes for the water use standard and attainment group from m2002 and they challenged the group and said they’re still using the canal for barges and the community put all that on the table and then the City said fishing. 

Language change DEC – I and SD would be appropriate for secondary contact rather than primary- DEC backtracked on this – Riverkeeper has been working with a legal group and will push for that language in the comments. Essentially weakening the designation to cave/defer to the City. 

Amy creating talking points to share for Wednesday. 20 copies if they have personal info. 

Why would they weaken their standards? Would cost less – we know DEP fudged their monitoring numbers – how do we even know. Other than the letter showing the City was threatening to sue the DEC but it was to the EPA a few years ago after the 2015 thing happened. Picking up where we left off – I don’t like the idea of being told we’re anti-anti-development; where we agree is that we want the cleanest environment as citizens of this city and state – one is related to the other. Well if we don’t want housing on public place – I raised my family here not knowing what I was surrounded by – it’s not pro or anti- it is about science not scare science. There are different needs – when it was supposed to be a park, DCP said they were underserved by parks – so put the development in other places. 

How is the foam/pumping station on? 

Chrissy and Doug about Army Corps 

DEC still needs to come about reclassification of the gowanus canal and a request to meet with them about it in the spring AND the MGP group w/ the health department. 

Proper pollutant analysis on Public Place – the capping may control but there’s a historic stream south of Huntington a slight dent just north of 9th street so the erosion pattern comes down and an issue of technical concern is if there’s spring-fed water under the cap what solutions will affect existing artesian water sources especially regarding moving coal tar. 

Will call out for new members 

The technical aspects of the cleanup are supposed to be handled under this committee and we shouldn’t lose site of that. 

Some committee members feel that the technical aspects of the discussion should only pertain to Superfund issues

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