Gowanus Canal CAG Meeting
Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Mary Star of the Sea Senior Apartments, 41 1st Street
Doug Sarno opened the meeting at 6:35 p.m.
Dan Wiley announced that Congresswoman Velázquez, who has multiple Superfund sites in her district, is introducing a bill in Congress and wants support of constituent groups. The term Superfund comes from a fund raised from a tax on chemical and oil companies to pay for orphaned sites where no responsible party is available to conduct the cleanup. That tax stopped in 1985, and the fund monies ran out in 2003. This act would reinstate the tax to create funds to address sites where funds are not available. The bill will also help businesses that need to relocate as a result of Superfund, and provide tax deductions and Small Business Administration and economic-injury loans to affected parties.
Christos Tsiamis, Remedial Project Manager for EPA, presented the updates:
The 4th Street Basin Pilot Project
Work has not started yet due to a number of issues. We did not expect difficulty installing the bulkheads, but there were surprises at the site that prevent bulkheads from being installed which precludes work. The location selected has issues because there’s a building on the south side across from Whole Foods in bad structural shape and very close to the canal. When the contractor began hammering the bulkhead in, the building cracks were exacerbated. On the Whole Foods side there is an old bulkhead with new soil placed behind it. When new soil is put there it must be compacted so it is strong enough to support everything. Compaction is not always done at the level needed and we see displacement of the pavers and in the soil closer to the Canal.
The way the project works, the PRPs created a trust which contracts with companies to do the work. That contract states that the contractor is allowed to select the means and methods to conduct the work. Contracts are very important in this country. EPA could not intervene because the contract was between the trust and the company, and EPA is not a party to the contract. The contractor was using a huge vibratory hammer for the installation of several sheet piles – these vibrations get transferred vertically and horizontally. There are tools that try to prevent vertical shifts and stunt it.
Ultimately, the EPA intervened because we have oversight when it comes to safety or application of the clean up procedure. By then, the contractor decided to move across the Whole Foods Site. The first time they stopped the contactor and required the contractor to use equipment that puts less energy into the ground. The second time they stopped the contractor from installing multiple sheet piles at a time. Only putting in one at a time allows for fewer vibrations and damage. The contractor and EPA have different tools that they can use. Ultimately, these changes result in slower work but safety is more important than the schedule. The vibratory hammer still causes issues, but now these are fewer.
Three days ago, there was settling on the Whole Foods side. Whole Foods had been contacted with concerns about the hammering. The PRPs were also contacted with concerns, and the contractor finally went with the tool that works more slowly but also more safely. It is still a difficult situation. We hope to be able to finish the south side bulkhead in the next few weeks. The dredging and capping pilot may then be comnpleted in February or March.