How do you clean up something as big and messy as the Gowanus Canal? On January 23-24, 2013, the United States Environmental Protection Agency will explain and defend its December 27, 2012, “Proposed Plan” for remediating the Gowanus Canal Superfund Site in Brooklyn, NY. The Proposed Plan formally identifies EPA’s “preferred remedy” for the pollution in the Gowanus Canal-a technical term which actually describes a range of actions plans to take to clean up the canal-and explains its choices. The Plan resulted from the investigation it has conducted to date, including the Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study is released in 2011.
The most heavily contaminated sediments in the canal will be dredged and taken away. The dredged material will be de-watered and heated to remove contaminants or stabilized to prevent leaching from the sediment. Once treated, the sediments will be used for landfill capping or aggregate for concrete blocks. Due to the amount of sediment EPA plans to dredge, it is likely that dewatering and stabilization facilities will have to be built nearby, rather than shipping the sediment to an existing facility by truck or barge.
Some in the community have supported EPA’s proposal for a temporary dredged material processing facility near the Gowanus, and have even suggested siting a permanent facility nearby to process the contaminated sediments from both the Gowanus Superfund Site and the Newtown Creek Superfund Site remediation that isn’t far behind. Such a facility would be a boon to the New York Harbor, which has had few economically feasible options for treating or disposing of contaminated dredged material since open ocean dumping at the Mud Dump site off of Sandy Hook was shut down in the 1990’s.
The remaining areas of contamination would be capped with a special liner to prevent migration of contamination, with some areas of heavy contamination receiving treatment in place to help neutralize contamination before capping. EPA will also work with NYSDEC and NYCDEP to prevent recontamination of the canal by reducing the number combined storm water-sewer overflows which discharge into the canal.
The price tag for the whole Gowanus Canal cleanup is between $467 and $507 million.
EPA will hold two public meetings to answer questions on the Proposed Plan and its preferred remedy. The first will be held at 7:00 p.m. on January 23, 2013 at Public School 58, 330 Smith Street, Brooklyn, New York. A second public meeting will be held at 7:00 p.m. on January 24, 2013 at the Joseph Miccio Community Center, 110 West 9th Street, Brooklyn, New York. EPA is also accepting public comments on the Proposed Plan until March 28, 2013. For more information, visit the EPA’s Gowanus Canal webpage here.