Recent dredging of the Gowanus Canal’s 4th Street Turning Basin, where contractors are conducting pilot work to test the efficacy of methods for cleaning and capping before rolling out the effort to the rest of the canal, have turned up a lot of junk, especially old tires.

But not everything being removed from the canal’s muck is mundane. Notable items include a brass porthole, a ship’s anchor, lots of stamped bricks, and a pair of 40-inch-diameter wooden wagon wheels, pictured below (photo by J. Bream, taken on May 18).

Gowanus Canal CAG Meeting
Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Mary Star of the Sea Senior Apartments, 41 1st Street

Announcements:

CAG Facilitator Doug Sarno opened the meeting at 6:42 p.m.

Approval of minutes from the March meeting was postponed.

Project Updates

Christos Tsiamis, Remedial Project Manager for EPA, presented the updates.

The 4th Street Basin Pilot Project

After the concerns about noise and vibration damage resulting from the initial pile-driving activities, EPA directed the team to conduct future pile-driving using a Giken Silent Piler, which produces fewer vibrations and disturbances on land and buildings. Use of this new technology has been going very successfully, so contractors are finishing the piling this week in preparation of support for dredging and capping. Should be re-starting activities next week.

CAG: So you’ve been driving sheet piles?
EPA: Yes, it is very quiet – you can’t even hear it, only the engines.

Beginning in November, there was a recommendation to get this technology and we did. We will be dredging, and then capping, in this pilot.  We anticipate those activities will last through the end of the summer. The goal is still to begin dredging of the main canal sometime in late 2020. This is still within reach, even with the bulkhead delay.

Moving north, the design of the First Street basin continues. Further north, the cutoff wall for the Fulton Manufacturing gas plant will be in place from top of the canal to Union Street; the design began when National Grid was working with New York State, so EPA made some fixes and created a 50% design. Once there is agreement on all the elements, we don’t have to divide stages; the 95% design should be completed by May 2018. EPA expects a finalized order to be signed, based on the schedule, by December 2019 or early 2020.

The new bulkhead is being installed in front of existing bulkheads – the top of the new wall sticks above the water. The design was done for two reasons:  too much encroachment, and deciding to use the Giken Press at the 4th Street basin.

CAG: How tall is the bulkhead?
EPA: About 50 to60 feet total; this is part of the remediation to prevent tar from coming in.

CAG: Will that wall be vulnerable to something hitting it?
EPA: Yes, it is a thick, steel bulkhead.

There is usually a two-foot offset from existing barrier besides water.

Finishing up with designs for the First Street basin by 2019. The 95% design should be complete in a month. Regarding 4th Street – just readjusted the design, anticipate both the wall and construction will be done by 2018 and completed by 2020.

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Gowanus Canal CAG Meeting
Tuesday, March 27, 2018
Mary Star of the Sea Senior Apartments, 41 1st Street

Announcements:

Doug Sarno opened the meeting at 6:35 p.m.

Project Updates

Christos Tsiamis, Remedial Project Manager for EPA, presented the updates.

The 4th Street Basin Pilot Project

Planning on starting the dredging pilot by end of March. The new equipment for driving sheet piles was going to be available for a limited time. When vibratory hammers were initially used there were problems like cracks in the pavement and issues caused by the vibrations of the hammer. In the canal, near where we operate, the EPA wanted to use a piece of equipment that is a silent press. It has an arm and with sheer power pushes the sheet pile through the soil into the subsurface. There’s a small auger next to the sheet pile that softens the ground as it goes and creates minimal vibration. EPA was not able to use this equipment until the equipment became available. Began dredging Thursday and Friday of last week.

EPA learned that the equipment could come via barge and they suspended the dredging work and now they’re going to use the silent press. A 50-foot portion will be tried. A segment of sheet piles on the Whole Foods side had not been driven into depth yet and will be completed with the silent press approach. 350 cubic yards of sediment was dredged before suspending work for trials with the silent press. On Wednesday, March 28, we will start using the new equipment to become familiar with it. If possible, will conduct concurrent operations to dredge and install sheet pile simultaneously. It is a little complicated, but we like complicated. The pilot study started with some modifications. Began by working with National Grid to install the wall at the top of canal on the eastern side. EPA took over once sheet pile issues became clear and asked National Grid to use the silent press and that’s what is happening there. It is important for EPA to try this equipment at the 4th Street Basin, as this is the pilot study for the remainder of the dredging process.

Historical Preservation Analysis for Building at Nevins & Butler Street

EPA distributed the letter from the New York State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) in response to the last CAG meeting with an assessment of the City’s EIS. The SHPO letter stated that whatever is created, it has to be in the context of the historic district. In the last meeting with the city, EPA expressed vocally that they are not in agreement. Mainly, the height of the proposed building is too tall. Trying to find ways with NYC to reduce that height to fit with the surroundings in the area. EPA has asked for comments and then will at some point make a decision.

EPA is working with New York State regarding fish-consumption signs, and they have a sign prepared that will be circulated. Once EPA gets feedback, they will decide where the signs should be placed. There are also pamphlets from the New York State Department of Health about public health aspects of handling fish and wildlife.

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The US EPA and National Grid on Tuesday announced a $100 million agreement pertaining to the Superfund cleanup of the Gowanus Canal, particularly work at the head-end of the Canal and in and around Thomas Greene Park, including replacement of the Douglass and DeGraw Pool and provision for a temporary pool while remediation work is carried out.

The full text of the EPA’s press release follows below.

(New York, N.Y. – May 29, 2018) Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a $100 million agreement with National Grid for cleanup of the Gowanus Canal Superfund site in Brooklyn, New York. The milestone settlement will support cleanup work near the head of the Gowanus Canal, including the cleanup and restoration of Thomas Greene Park, as well as the Douglass and DeGraw Pool.

“This agreement will enable the remediation and revitalization of a heavily contaminated waterway and one of the neighborhood’s most popular recreational areas,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “EPA is prioritizing the Superfund program so that sites in densely populated urban areas, such as the Gowanus Canal, are addressed quickly and thoroughly.”

“Administrator Pruitt is revitalizing the Superfund program and this settlement will acceleratethe cleanup of one of the nation’s most contaminated waterbodies,” said EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez. “This agreement harnesses the power of community partnerships to address contamination underneath a cherished public park and pool while advancing the redevelopment of the surrounding neighborhoods. EPA, together with National Grid and the City of New York, will continue to work closely with the community on the design and construction of both a temporary and replacement pool and park.”

“I’m pleased to see this settlement agreement reached as it will mean community resources are maintained during cleanup of the Gowanus Canal,” said Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY). “I thank the local EPA staff who have worked so diligently on this project over the years. It is important that the community retain access to a nearby pool during the remediation of the park site and Canal. To that end, I will continue working to ensure maximum community input in securing atemporary and permanent replacement for the pool.”

Under this settlement, National Grid will, among other obligations:

  • Build a sealed bulkhead/barrier wall on the east side of the Canal between Butler and Union Streets to prevent coal tar from spreading to the Canal and to support dredging;
  • Address contamination at the Thomas Greene Park through excavation and mixing cement into contaminated soil (a process called solidification) to permanently lock up coal tar and other contaminants;
  • Design, site, and construct a temporary swimming pool to operate while the park is closed; and
  • Design and permanently replace the pool and impacted park areas.

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Gowanus Canal CAG Meeting
Tuesday, February 27, 2018
Mary Star of the Sea Senior Apartments, 41 1st Street

Announcements:

Doug Sarno opened the meeting at 6:35 p.m.

Project Updates

Christos Tsiamis, Remedial Project Manager for EPA, presented the updates.

The 4th Street Basin Pilot Project

The preparation work for the pilot has been arduous and taken longer than planned. The silver lining is that this is a pilot. A big part of the pilot is to identify any problems with the technologies we will be using now before we begin the actual work. EPA anticipates being able to begin dredging by the first week of March.

Historical Preservation Analysis for Building at Nevins & Butler Street

John Vetter, EPA archaeological consultant, presented an overview of the historical preservation work.

This is part of an ongoing process that many here have been a part of. We looked at the turning basin, did we find any exciting artifacts? No. We haven’t even found what we anticipated, which would be a great collection of handguns. Now they’re looking at 8-million-gallon sewer overflow tanks, which means the city faces constraints in the siting and engineering of the facility. The EPA’s responsibility suggests that under Section 106, we have to identify what is there and if construction of the facility will have an effect on any historic facilities and how we could avoid, minimize or mitigate these impacts. EPA is working with its partners and getting input from all of them, including NY State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission, NYC DEP, and the community. EPA wants feedback on the potential historic impacts and the options to mitigate those impacts.

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In a letter to City Council Member Stephen Levin dated April 19, EPA Region 2 Administrator Peter Lopez expressed support for a community visioning process focused on the future of the area surrounding the northern end of the Gowanus Canal, an idea initiated by the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group (CAG) in a resolution passed at the CAG’s March 2018 general meeting.

Lopez writes:

Community engagement is a cornerstone of EPA’s Superfund program and we have long encouraged active community engagement regarding the potential impacts of Superfund cleanups, including the design of construction projects required to carry out such cleanups. For the Gowanus Canal, we have worked closely with the CAG to provide this kind of input. We would welcome additional timely community input through the sort of visioning process proposed by the recent CAG Resolution.

Click the link to read Lopez’s letter in its entirety: EPA Region 2 to CM Levin re Visioning Process 4-19-18.

At its March 27, 2018 general meeting, the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group passed the following resolution calling for a comprehensive community visioning process for the future of the head-end of the Gowanus Canal.

The resolution, addressed to local City Council Member Stephen Levin and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, reads as follows:

Resolved, the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group (CAG) requests that our elected officials, city agencies, and community representatives immediately initiate, secure funds for, and lead an active community-engagement and visioning process with the CAG and community that gathers input, at a minimum, on the following:

●  Impact of this project on local businesses and residents,

●  Removal of Thomas Greene Park pool and coal-tar remediation,

●  Design and construction of a temporary pool,

●  Long-term disposition of the staging area,

●  Taking advantage of the CSO facility construction to increase parkland in an underserved

neighborhood,

●  Design and construction of the portion of Thomas Greene Park that will be replaced,

●  Retention and restoration of historic structures,

●  Visual and safe physical access to the waterfront, and

●  Design of the CSO facility.

You can download a copy of the full resolution, including relevant background information, here: CAG Resolution Community Visioning Process at the North End of the Gowanus Canal 180327

At its March 27, 2018 general meeting, the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group resolved to formally request that the EPA install, or direct the installation of, signage around the Gowanus Superfund site warning against consuming fish taken from the Gowanus Canal.

The resolution, addressed to Christos Tsiamis, Senior Project Manager, Gowanus Canal Project U.S. EPA Region 2, reads as follows:

The Gowanus CAG is hereby requesting the EPA install or cause to be installed Fish-Consumption Warning Signage around the Gowanus Superfund site. We ask that such warnings be placed in reasonable likely fishing locations and at each public access location where people can easily make physical contact with the canal waters; and we ask that there be a minimum of 12 signs installed along the Gowanus Superfund site. We also ask that such signage be posted in English and Spanish with clear universal graphics.

We understand that this is a reasonable action as such signage has been installed in other Superfund sites and provide one example here, using simple two-color printing on a white metal panel. We ask that the text provide specific information for the Gowanus Superfund site.

You can download a copy of the full memorandum, including a photograph of a sample sign, here: CAG Resolution Fish-Consumption Signage 180327

At its March 27, 2018 general meeting, the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group passed the following resolution asking that the EPA ensure strict adherence to the Section 106 Memorandum of Agreement governing the contract for demolition pertaining to the Gowanus Station building.

The resolution, addressed to Christos Tsiamis, Senior Project Manager, Gowanus Canal Project U.S. EPA Region 2, reads as follows:

RESOLVED BY THE GOWANUS CAG; that the EPA ensure all and any actions the DEP takes following possession of the properties, specifically those actions defined within any Contract for Demolition,be held primarily accountable to the details set forth within the MOA; and further, that the NYC DEP-issued Contract for Demolition include such language that will require adherence to the parameters set forth within the MOA.

You can download a copy of the full resolution, including relevant background information, here: CAG Resolution Creation of Section 106 MOA 180327