Progress Underway at Gowanus Canal Superfund Site

The Gowanus Canal Superfund site in Brooklyn, New York recently received a major cash infusion. In May, the Environmental Protection Agency revealed it reached a $100 million agreement with the National Grid, which will go toward cleanup efforts near the head of the canal—including Thomas Greene Park and the Douglass and DeGraw Pool.

A major move for cleanup efforts, under the terms of the settlement, National Grid will complete several obligations, including:

  • Construct a sealed barrier wall on the east side of the canal to keep coal tar from spreading into the water and to facilitate dredging.
  • Treat contamination at Thomas Greene Park by excavating and mixing cement into contaminated soil—e., solidification—to seal coal tar and other contaminants on a permanent basis.
  • Devise, site, and build a temporary swimming pool for use during the park closure.
  • Design and create a replacement—permanent—swimming pool and revitalize other impacted areas of the park.

Pilot Project Makes Major Progress

In October 2017, a dredging and capping pilot study began at the Gowanus Canal Superfund site, as part of ongoing cleanup work. Under the direction of the EPA, roughly 17,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment have been removed from the canal’s 4th Street turning basin.

Efforts to cap the bottom were underway in July 2018—the final phase of the program. Officials hope this will produce valuable insights to guide the engineering design of the dredging and capping of the canal. As part of the project, steel sheet piles were mounted on the sides of the canal to support the safe completion of dredging work.

Sediment was removed and transported to another location for treatment and disposal. The final phase involves placing layers of sand, clay, and activated carbon-absorbing materials on the floor of the turning basin to create a clean bottom base. The project is expected to be completed in Fall 2018.

About the Gowanus Canal Superfund Site

Built in the mid-1800s, the Gowanus Canal was once a major transportation route. The 100-foot-wide, 1.8-mile long canal was used by manufactured gas plants, paper mills, tanneries, and chemical plants that operated along it. These companies discharged waste into the waterway, and contamination also seeped into it from sewer system overflows carrying sanitary waste from homes and rainwater from storm drains and industrial toxins. The canal empties into the New York Harbor.

A cleanup history 10 years in the making, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation requested the EPA to classify the Gowanus Canal as a Superfund site in December 2008. Following several assessments and investigations, this request was granted in March 2010.

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