EPA Region 2’s Gowanus Superfund cleanup Senior Project Manager, Christos Tsiamis, sent along the following notification yesterday:

“…NYC DEP will be shutting down the Flushing Tunnel for 10-12 weeks starting next Tuesday October 1st in order to perform the modifications to the Flushing Tunnel Discharge Chamber to address the foaming issues at the Flushing Tunnel outlet.”

Tsiamis reported that it is his understanding that the work will take place on land, on the premises of NYCDEP’s property at the top end of the canal.

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.

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At its September 24, 2019 general meeting, the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group passed the following resolution calling on the EPA to finalize a Programmatic Agreement or Memorandum of Agreement covering the Gowanus Superfund site pursuant to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.

The resolution, addressed to the EPA, Gowanus Canal Superfund Potentially Responsible Parties (PRPs), the New York State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP), reads as follows:

Resolved: 

The Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group (CAG) requests that the EPA and the PRPs, as well as any contractors employed by them, refrain from proceeding with demolition, site clearance, or any other tangible preparations for the creation of the cut-off wall proposed for the east side of the Gowanus Canal above the Union Street Bridge or any other demolition, excavation, or bulkhead replacement activity along the Gowanus Canal until such time as the EPA has finalized a Programmatic Agreement (PA) or Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) covering the Gowanus Superfund site’s entire area of potential effects pursuant to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced that it had rejected a proposal by the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to substitute a combined sewer overflow (CSO) tunnel for the two CSO retention tanks prescribed in the EPA’s Record of Decision for the Gowanus Canal Superfund cleanup.

In a letter dated September 20, 2019, US EPA Region 2 Administrator Pete Lopez informed NYC DEP Commissioner Vincent Sapienza that after careful and lengthy review, EPA had decided against the city’s tunnel proposal. Lopez outlined several reasons for the EPA’s decision, which largely focused on concern over potential delays in the cleanup if a tunnel were to replace the tanks.

Click here to read the full letter from Administrator Lopez.

The Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group’s Land Use Committee met on Tuesday, July 9, 2019, at the offices of the Gowanus Canal Conservancy, at 543 Union Street.

CAG Members present:

David Briggs
Andrea Parker
Peter Reich

Guests:

Terri Thomson, National Grid

Item 1

Peter asked if the committee could develop a targeted vision for the north end of the canal (Phase I of the cleanup). There is concern that the scope of the zoning and the remediation covers a large area and is very complex. If the CAG proposes a vision for a subdistrict, it could serve as a template for the entire area.

Action

Some of this was already explored with the North Gowanus Canal Visioning Group. All agreed that developing consensus at the CAG is a challenge given the myriad perspectives. Topic will be further discussed at the next Land Use Committee meeting in September.

Item 2

Terri suggested that the CAG will benefit if each organization and at-large member gives a short presentation about why they are on the CAG at a monthly meeting.

Action

All agreed that this is an excellent idea. Dave will reach out to Doug and Natalie.

Item 3

Andrea pointed out that the NRD process for restoring damaged ecosystems should be revisited.

Action

All agreed that this is important. Andrea suggested inviting Carl Alderson and other trustees to a future Land Use Committee meeting.

Gowanus Canal CAG General Meeting
Tuesday, June 25, 2019
Mary Star of the Sea Senior Apartments, 41 1st Street

Announcements:

Doug Sarno opened the meeting at 6:35. 

A few things to plan for moving forward, along with a couple committee reports, and an update from the EPA.

Project Updates

Brian Carr, EPA, presented the updates.

Things are status quo. There is work starting on the Fulton barrier wall. Public Place work also starting. Half a dozen or so designs and negotiations with property owners for them to replace bulkheads, and we’re trying to coordinate all of these things so they fit together. We’re hopeful that’s going to work out. It will be a challenge for staging area and barges in the canal and things like that. Before I went away there was an order issued to the PRP group to install bulkheads where Flushing Tunnel is, and the property next to the head of the canal at 479 Degraw – those are the only two we don’t expect property owners to do – the property owner at 479 Degraw can do it themselves and it will be easier than what happened at Whole Foods.

For those with a history, it is part of Eastern Effects where the “poonami” video was filmed in 2010. Just next to that is the Bayside property; we have an agreement in principal for them to do their design of the bulkhead once done in September. At 450 Union, where Pig Beach is, they’re in the NYS Brownfields program, and we’re in discussion for them to do a bulkhead. A block from there, Lavender Lake and then Powerhouse are in process. Next to Whole Foods we have a bulkhead design, and then next to Carroll Street we’ve been reviewing that.  

This is an incredible amount of work, and people have special sheet piles coming from Luxembourg and places like that. In the meantime, we’re doing lower bulkheads. Smith Street properties down in Red Hook. The number of things we’re doing that are close to fruition is fairly incredible. These walls can cost $5,000 to $10,000 per linear foot and the canal is 1.8 miles long, so we’re talking about quite a lot of money, and a lot of sheet piling. Various parties are anticipating future rezoning requirements, so we’re talking to them about soft edges, and the GCC and DCP, and we are going to start seeing more Sponge Park-type of edges, and hopefully we can begin transforming the way things are done. 

We have approved the design for the 1st Street Basin, and we’ll work with PRPs later in the year about how to move forward on that. With regard to the tunnel proposal, for the moment our Regional Administrator is very carefully reviewing this, and we had an excellent meeting with him earlier today and are meeting again next week. There are so many complex issues with it, and it will take a while. The mandate we’ve been given is to make sure we do the best we can for the community. With any luck we will complete the various steps we need to take so we can begin dredging a year from now. 

Working with National Grid on the Fulton barrier wall. Some of the barges are so large, it would prevent other barges from entering. We have to work toward that so the Flushing Tunnel outlet can be installed; this is one of the most challenging processes we are facing.

We could work 24 hours a day and still not keep up – the things we have to do to not interrupt business, such as get access, assess before and after conditions. 

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

Announcements:

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.

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At its May 28, 2019 general meeting, the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group passed the following resolution calling for greater coordination between the New York City Department of City Planning and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection to address additional loading of contaminated CSO solids that may result from the proposed rezoning of Gowanus, in order to protect the Superfund Remedy.

The resolution, addressed to City Planning Director Marisa Lago and NYCDEP Commissioner Vincent Sapienza, reads as follows:

Resolved, as the proposed Gowanus neighborhood rezoning could impact the Superfund process and remedy through increased loading of contaminated CSO solids in the Canal, the Gowanus CAG hereby requests that the Department of City Planning (NYCDCP) and Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) work closely together to coordinate mitigation of negative impacts. To ensure agency compliance, we further request regular updates on coordination efforts by providing written answers to questions unaddressed at the March 26 [2019] general CAG meeting (below) and responding to our comments on the impacts of the Gowanus Neighborhood Rezoning and Related Actions.

Questions from March 26 CAG Meeting:

  1. Will the proposed increase in density as a result of the rezoning impact the annual volume and frequency of CSO contaminated solids discharged into the Gowanus Canal and throughout the East River and New York Harbor?
  2. How will the timeline and phasing of eventual construction projects as a result of the rezoning impact and overlap with Superfund clean-up efforts?
  3. In order to accurately assess the impact of the proposed rezoning on the Superfund Remedy, will DEP calculate CSO discharge volume and frequency by each CSO-shed, incorporate data from real-time water quality monitoring and data collection, and model impact based on both Projected and Potential development sites in the Gowanus Draft Scope of Work?
  4. Can DEP commit to providing a current and ongoing publicly accessible record of infrastructure upgrades and system improvements as well as a mechanism for tracking proposed mitigation measures identified in the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Gowanus rezoning?
  5. There have been several infrastructure upgrades that include direct discharge of treated stormwater into the Canal. Their performance needs to be proven in pilot projects, in order to adequately support the Superfund remedy. At the general CAG meeting on March 26, 2019, DEP made a commitment to reporting on monitoring results for Sponge Park and the High-Level Storm Sewer. What is the timeline for these monitoring programs, and when will the CAG have access to the results?
  6. The Superfund Record of Decision specifically requires that new development mitigate additional sewer loads that could compromise the Superfund remedy (p. iii, par. 4). Which City agency(ies) or PRP(s) will be responsible for ensuring compliance with this, or will it be passed to the private developer, as was the case with 363-365 Bond? If so, how will the developer be monitored for compliance?
  7. The Superfund Record of Decision specifically requires that CSO retention tanks are sized to “accommodate projected additional loads to the combined sewer system that result from current and future residential development, as well as periods of high rainfall, including future rainfall increases that may result from climate change” (p. 8, par. 5). How will added density impact plans for the CSO infrastructure required under the Superfund ROD?

You can download a copy of the full resolution here: Gowanus CAG Resolution_DEP DCP Coordination_5.28.19.

At its May 28, 2019 general meeting, the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group passed the following resolution requesting independent analysis of the potential for preservation of the entire Gowanus Station building located at 234 Butler Street.

The resolution, addressed to Environmental Protection Agency Region 2 (EPA), the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP), reads as follows:

Resolved, the Community Advisory Group (CAG) requests that EPA engage independent consultants to conduct further site and engineering analysis investigations with respect to retention in place of the City Of New York Water Supply – Distribution GOWANUS STATION building, located at 234 Butler Street.

The CAG asks for an independent consultant to conduct its own analysis to determine whether DEP’s 234 Butler analysis is on point, preferably a consultant familiar with historic preservation practices, such as Jan Hird Pokorny. The CAG asks that the Gowanus Station building be preserved in its entirety.

Background: A previous resolution regarding the request for an independent engineering analysis of this building was passed by the CAG in March 2018.

The CAG was not able to provide direct Section 106 consultation regarding the proposed Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between June of 2018 and February, 2019.

The original resolution was drafted by the CAG’s Archaeology Committee. You can download a copy of the full resolution here: Gowanus CAG Resolution_234 Butler_5.28.19.