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.

Read more »

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.

Read more »

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.

Read more »

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

At its March 27, 2018 general meeting, the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group passed the following resolution seeking the preservation of the Water Supply Distribution Building at 234 Nevins Street, which occupies a portion of the site potentially slated for construction of large combined-sewer-overflow retention tank.

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

Resolved, the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group (CAG) requests that DEP engage in further site and engineering analysis investigations into the Gowanus Station building’s structural integrity and consult with experts in preserving historic structures adjacent to construction sites using best efforts to find a way to preserve Gowanus Station.

Before it gives any approval of DEP’s current Head-of-Canal CSO Tank design, EPA is advised that the Gowanus Station building is irreplaceable, is of value to the community, and the full 2-story structure that comprises the Station at the corner of Butler and Nevins must be maintained in its entirety.

The Gowanus CAG reserves its rights to provide EPA and DEP with further input regarding the proposed Head-of-Canal CSO tank site, including as to mitigation should the agencies disregard the wishes of the CAG as set forth in this resolution and proceed toward demolition of any part of Gowanus Station.

You can download a copy of the full resolution, including relevant background information, here: CAG Resolution Preservation of Water Supply Distribution Building at 234 Butler Street 180327

At its March 27, 2018 general meeting, the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group passed a resolution requesting support from state elected officials for a bill currently before the legislature that seeks to ban single-use plastic bags.

The resolution, addressed to local State Senator Velmanette Montgomery and local Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, as well as members of the State Senate’s Environment Committee and the Assembly’s Standing Committee on Environmental Conservation, reads as follows:

Discarded single-use plastic bags pose a considerable problem in our local urban waterways. As we move towards cleanup actions in the Gowanus Canal, we have already noticed the extent of plastic bags included in recent dredging actions. The EPA has made the community aware of the need to bring about a change in community management of surface trash released into the waterway. We realize that the continued use of single-use plastic bags poses risks of recontamination of the Gowanus Canal after Superfund Cleanup measures are complete.

As a means of support on this matter, we are asking that you support the enactment of proposed legislation (S7760/A9953), sponsored by Assemblyman Steve Englebright and State Senators Brad Hoylman and Liz Krueger, which would place a ban on plastic carryout bags. This bill aligns with recommendations made by the NYC DEC Plastic Bag Task Force. We feel enacting this bill is a necessary step to eliminate the environmental harm resulting from these single-use plastic bags, particularly as they affect the public water ways and risk contributing to recontamination of the Gowanus Canal after Superfund Cleanup measures are complete.

You can download a copy of the full resolution here: CAG Resolution_Single Use Plastic Bags_180327