The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency yesterday issued an administrative order compelling the City of New York to construct two sewage retention tanks to control discharges into the Gowanus Canal. The move follows previous orders issued in 2014 and 2016 that mandated that the city find locations for, and design the tanks, respectively.
The new order includes a requirement that the city construct a new bulkhead at the “Salt Lot” site of the smaller tank, and mandates new schedule benchmarks, citing the city’s noncompliance with previous milestones laid out in the 2014 order.
The EPA has ordered New York City to construct an eight-million-gallon tank, the “RH-034 tank,” which refers to the site of a sewer outfall, near the head end of the Gowanus Canal, and a second four-million-gallon tank, the “OH-007 tank,” on the Salt Lot near the Canal’s Fifth Street basin. The tanks are intended to capture sewage during heavy rainfall events that would otherwise discharge directly into the Canal and threaten the integrity of the Superfund cleanup.
EPA Region 2 Community Involvement Coordinator Natalie Loney provided the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group today with the following report regarding conclusion of the investigation into the sinking of a barge containing dredged sediment from the Gowanus Canal in Gowanus Bay on January 25th:
“EPA has concluded its assessment of the incident that caused a barge containing approximately 850 cubic yards of material dredged from the Gowanus Canal Superfund Site in Brooklyn, NY to become submerged, under high tide conditions, in the Upper New York Bay near Red Hook and Gowanus Bay.
“Based on calculations on the barge contents once it was refloated and berthed back at the canal, EPA has concluded that material released from the barge, if any, was minimal. As suspected, the cause of the incident was a horizontal gash on the port side of the barge. This damage was caused by a metal protrusion along the docking location at the sediment processing facility, which has now been repaired.
“To prevent incidents in the future, EPA has directed that preventive steps be taken, including that enhanced barge inspections take place, that locations with less exposure to unfavorable sea conditions be evaluated and used when barges are moored for operational reasons, and that a tender boat accompany barges when they must be moored outside the site area.
“The dredging of the canal was temporarily halted so that efforts could concentrate on addressing the barge incident. Dredging operations have now resumed. The Incident Report will be posted to www.epa.gov/superfund/gowanus-canal.”
At its January 26, 2021 general meeting, the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group passed the following resolution requesting EPA’s direct assistance in requiring the NYSDEC and NYCDEP to alter the water classification of the Gowanus Canal.
The resolution reads as follows:
Resolved: The CAG formally requests EPA’s direct assistance in requiring the NYSDEC and NYCDEP to reclassify the Gowanus Canal’s waterway classification in response to the CAG’s “Reclass Petition” dated 2/4/2020.”
Background: The Gowanus Canal Community has been advocating for the reclassification of the Gowanus Canal waterway since the NYCDEP 2002 communities participation in the DEP Use Standards and Attainment study. After the formation of the EPA Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group (CAG), the CAG passed its first resolution, formally requesting reclassification of the Gowanus Canal Water Quality Standard. In 2012, the CAG asked the EPA to take similar action as EPA’s Region 5 did when it mandated that the State of Illinois reclassify the Chicago River. The current industrial Class-SD classification for the Gowanus Canal is not consistent with the goals of the Clean Water Act.
In addition, to insure that EPA’s remedy of the Gowanus Canal will not be impacted by New York City’s push to rezone the Gowanus area for an additional 20,000 residents, and that the health and safety of current and future residents are not impacted, it is vital that the Gowanus Canal be reclassified in order to require more stringent regulatory oversight and enforcement for improved water quality.
At its January 26, 2021 general meeting, the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group passed the following resolution supporting EPA’s response to the New York City Department of Environmental Protection’s letter requesting extended deadlines for construction of CSO retention tanks.
The resolution reads as follows:
Resolved: The Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group (CAG) strongly supports the position EPA states in its November 6th letter to the NYC DEP regarding DEP’s request for a 12-month extension to complete the future construction of the RH-034 CSO Tank and an 18-month extension to complete the future construction of the OH-007 CSO tank. The DEP’s proposed delays are of great concern to the community because of the “impacts to the Canal cleanup that may occur if contaminated CSO solids discharges continue as a result of further delays to DEP’s completion of the CSO solids controls component of EPA’s September 2013 Record of Decision (ROD) for the site.”
Background: The EPA clarifies for DEP that “based on the above, it is EPA’s conclusion that the requested extensions are not justified. EPA would like to meet with DEP to discuss in more detail our evaluation of DEP’s extension request, a resolution of DEP’s significant ongoing noncompliance, and the issuance of an enforcement instrument which memorializes DEP’s CSO remedy implementation obligations.” “Even as the upcoming dredging begins to cure the Canal’s century and a half of pollution, EPA is cognizant that the CSO portion of the Canal remedy is of equal significance to the community.”
Click here to see a PDF version of the full resolution.
At its January 26, 2021 general meeting, the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group passed the following resolution expressing support for the EPA Region 2 team tasked with leading the Gowanus Canal Superfund cleanup.
The resolution reads as follows:
Resolved: The Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group (CAG) strongly supports Walter Mugdan and his Superfund Cleanup Team, Christos Tsiamis, Brian Carr and Natalie Loney for their excellent work in providing the best solution for the remediation of the Gowanus Canal and adjacent sources of contamination. In addition, the CAG appreciates the clarity that Mr. Tsiamis provided in our December 1st General CAG meeting where he gave an overview of the extent of the coal tar contamination at Public Pace based on NYS DEC’s own Remediation database and explained the differences between the 2007 Voluntary Cleanup Program and the Brownfield Cleanup currently being implemented. The CAG continues to be thankful to Mr. Tsiamis for sharing his extensive knowledge of the issues around the canal and the contamination of Public Place.
Background: NYSDEC Site Remediation Database for Public Place states: “The site is underlain by a deep sand deposit, which has enabled the coal tar released from the former MGP to migrate both vertically and horizontally. Two other MGPs are also located nearby, and it is not always possible to tell where the tar plume from one site ends and the next begins.” “The site is heavily contaminated with MGP residuals, including coal tar and petroleum products. The principal contaminant is coal tar, which is present as a non-aqueous phase liquid (NAPL) throughout the portion of the site that borders the canal. Contaminants are impacting the soil, groundwater and soil gas. Contamination is present to depths of at least 120 feet below grade, and has been observed migrating off-site at depth. The nearest environmental receptor is the Gowanus Canal, where significant discharges of coal tar can be seen during low tide periods. Active coal tar seeps are found in two locations along the canal; under extreme low tide conditions, these seeps can cover a several hundred-foot reach of the canal with slicks and sheens. The canal is used as a recreational resource by kayakers and canoers. Based on the heavy contamination at the site, NYSDEC has determined that the site poses a significant threat to human health and the environment.”
Click here to see a PDF version of the full resolution.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 2 office issued the following statement today regarding the sinking of a barge filled with dredge sediment from the Gowanus Canal earlier this week in Gowanus Bay:
EPA continues to investigate the incident that caused a barge containing material dredged from the Gowanus Canal, as part of the continuous operations at that Superfund Site project, to become submerged, under high tide conditions, in the Gowanus Bay. The barge was filled on January 22 with an estimated 850 tons of
material dredged from the canal. This work is part of the dredging remedy being
performed by potentially responsible parties (PRPs) for the site. The barge was
permitted to be moored at a specific location in the Gowanus Bay, as indicated in the map below.
On January 25, EPA was notified that the barge was resting upright on mudflats and it was partially submerged. Given the tide cycle, the barge had likely been submerged to varying degrees depending on the tide.
On Tuesday, January 26, Cashman, a contractor for the canal site, successfully
pumped water from the sunken barge into a separate, empty barge and the barge was
refloated. After refloating the barge, a small hole was identified and was subsequently patched. While this appears to be the cause of the incident, EPA is continuing to investigate. Following Coast Guard approval, the barge was safely moved to the Gowanus Canal dredge staging site at Smith and Huntington Streets so that the sediments on the barge could be dewatered. No visible sheens were observed after the incident was noted and initial observations indicate that the bulk of the sediment in the hopper container within the barge remains in place.
While EPA is confident that no adverse impacts to human health resulted from this incident, EPA takes this incident seriously and is reviewing field operations associated with this Superfund cleanup. The dredging of the canal was temporarily halted so that efforts could concentrate on addressing the barge and barge operations.
EPA has informed the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group, as well as federal, state, and local partners, of the incident and will continue to update the public as more information becomes available via the Gowanus Canal Superfund Site website and through updates, as needed.
On January 25, 2021,EPA was informed that a barge of dredged material from the Gowanus Canal Superfund site cleanup that was moored in Gowanus Bay had sunk. Cashman, a contractor for the Potentially Responsible Parties (PRPs) for the Gowanus site in Brooklyn, NY, has mobilized pumps, booms, and silt curtains to the location and pumped water from the sunken barge into a separate, empty barge during periods of lower tide. Operations for stabilizing the barge will continue today. Dredging activities have been temporarily suspended so that crews can concentrate on operations to secure the barge.
EPA is consulting with the PRPs and is actively investigating the incident to determine the cause, whether contaminated sediment was released into the water, and to determine appropriate next steps. EPA’s goals are to do all that we can do to ensure that this type of mishap does not happen again and that any impacts from yesterday’s accident are appropriately and promptly addressed. EPA will update the public as more information becomes available.
The Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group’s Land Use Committee met via Zoom conference on Tuesday, January 5, 2021, at 7 p.m.
CAG Members present: Paul Basile David Briggs Katia Kelly Louis Kleinman Hildegaard Link Steve Marcus
Margaret Maugenest Andrea Parker Peter Reich Brad Vogel Sue Wolfe Maryann Young
Guests: Jason Brody Judy Janda (Greenspace Community Garden) Neeyati Johnson (GCC) Lynn Neuman (GNCJ) Terri Thomson (National Grid) Guy Wedwab (CB6 EWCDH committee member)
Draft resolution for bulkhead encroachments into canal.
Brad (and Peter) drafted a letter to EPA that states the following CAG requests: a) a navigable waterway be maintained, and b) if the lost canal surface area due to the new bulkhead encroachments exceeds the new surface area of the restored 1st Street turning basin, then additional canal surface area must be created elsewhere to offset the lost area. All reviewed; Dave suggested three minor edits and attaching photos. Brad will revise and send.
Ongoing conversation regarding the new Unified Storm Water Rule and recent construction of Pig’s Beach bulkhead. Andrea shared recent Water Quality/Technical Committee draft resolution.
Katia and Margaret expressed concern that the draft was not discussed at the January 4th Water Quality/Technical Committee meeting and requested that it be discussed in more depth at the next WQ committee meeting. All agreed. Andrea will circulate via email for further review and comment by the Land Use Committee.
The EPA has notified certain Gowanus-area property owners in a letter that contractors installing new bulkheads in preparation of dredging will be plugging unpermitted outfall pipes that discharge into the Gowanus Canal to prevent recontamination after the Superfund cleanup is complete.
The undated letter, from EPA Assistant Regional Counsel Brian Carr to unnamed property owners, was accompanied by maps and a table indicating the locations of the outfalls that will be plugged. The letter asks the property owners to contact EPA regarding the outfalls.