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EPA lists Gowanus Canal on the National Priorities List

On March 2, 2010, the EPA listed the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn on the National Priorities List (NPL), making it a federal Superfund site. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation urged EPA to consider the Gowanus Canal for inclusion on the NPL in December 2008, and EPA proposed listing it on the NPL in April 2009. New York City opposed the listing, claiming it had an "alternative plan" to clean up the Canal that would cost less and take less time. EPA said in its statement announcing the decision that, "The Agency has determined that adding the site to the Superfund list is the best way to clean up the heavily contaminated canal." Indeed, the site's Superfund status will now allow EPA to use federal monies to clean up the site.

The canal was built in the 1860s and functioned as a busy industrial waterway with manufactured gas plants, coal yards, concrete-mixing facilities, tanneries, chemical plants, and oil refineries on its shores. Untreated industrial wastes, raw sewage and runoff were also discharged into the canal.

On March 2, 2010, the EPA listed the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn on the National Priorities List (NPL), making it a federal Superfund site. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation urged EPA to consider the Gowanus Canal for inclusion on the NPL in December 2008, and EPA proposed listing it on the NPL in April 2009. New York City opposed the listing, claiming it had an "alternative plan" to clean up the Canal that would cost less and take less time. EPA said in its statement announcing the decision that, "The Agency has determined that adding the site to the Superfund list is the best way to clean up the heavily contaminated canal." Indeed, the site's Superfund status will now allow EPA to use federal monies to clean up the site.

The canal was built in the 1860s and functioned as a busy industrial waterway with manufactured gas plants, coal yards, concrete-mixing facilities, tanneries, chemical plants, and oil refineries on its shores. Untreated industrial wastes, raw sewage and runoff were also discharged into the canal.

Currently the EPA is searching for potentially responsible parties (PRPs) that currently own, operate at, once owned or once operated (during discharge) at property on the canal that could have contributed to the contamination in the canal. Some of the past owners and operators may have been acquired by larger corporations such as ExxonMobil, Chevron and National Grid. As of December 17, 2009, EPA has sent notifications to seven companies, New York City and the US Navy that they are PRPs . EPA has also sent information request letters to twenty other companies in order to determine whether they are possible additional PRPs.

Once EPA identifies all viable PRPs, it will try to enter into an agreement with those parties for investigation and cleanup of the site. If no PRPs can be found, are not viable or do not cooperate, then EPA will have to use monies in the Superfund to finance the cleanup. EPA expects a remediation plan by 2014. The project is estimated by EPA to cost $500 million, but we share the belief of many that that is a low number. We think EPA was prudent to reject the City of New York's plan as an alternative to listing, because, among other reasons, it is far too early to make a determination about the nature of remediation, how long it will take and how much it will cost.

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