EPA to National Grid: It’s time to pay for the Gowanus Canal cleanup

June 1, 2018 By Scott Enman Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Environmental Protection Agency and National Grid agreed on a $100 million settlement that will go toward the cleanup of the notoriously toxic Gowanus Canal. Eagle photos by Rob Abruzzese

It’s only a drop in the bucket, but a historic milestone nonetheless.

The Environmental Protection Agency and National Grid agreed on a $100 million settlement that will go towards cleaning up the notoriously toxic Gowanus Canal.

National Grid, which was identified as a responsible party for the waterway’s pollution, is required under law to pay for a portion of the remediation process.

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U.S. Rep Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.), who has three Superfund sites in her district, said the much-needed payment would most importantly keep the neighborhood’s public space accessible.

“This settlement is welcome news in the ongoing efforts to clean up the Gowanus Canal,” Velazquez told the Brooklyn Eagle. “I thank the local EPA staff who have worked so diligently on this project over the years,” she added.

“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 a temporary and permanent replacement for the pool.”

The Brooklyn congresswoman recently called for a new tax on all chemical and large oil companies to fund the cleanup of some toxic locations. The Superfund Enhancement Act would use the revenue to secure cleanup of so-called orphan sites, where the parties responsible for the pollution cannot be identified or are unable to pay for the cleanup.

The two main Superfund sites in Brooklyn — the Gowanus Canal and Newtown Creek — are not orphaned locations, but Velazquez said her bill would result in a “more robustly funded” program for all sites.

The entire Gowanus Canal cleanup is predicted to cost $467 million to $504 million, according to The New York Times, though that figure is likely to increase.

EPA has identified at least 28 different parties responsible for the contamination of the Gowanus Canal, including National Grid, the City of New York and several private and federal government agencies.

A full list of the entities can be found on a website devoted to the cleanup of the waterway.

The $100 million settlement will go toward cleanup work at the head of the canal and toward the cleaning and restoration of Thomas Greene Park and the Douglass and DeGraw Pool.

Because Thomas Greene Park’s pool will be out of service during the remediation process, funds from the agreement will go towards building a temporary pool and permanently replacing the pool after the cleanup process is finished.

A barrier wall/bulkhead will be constructed on the east side of the canal between Butler and Union streets, which will prevent coal tar from spreading to other sections.

Construction of the sealed bulkhead is expected to begin later this year, and the remaining cleanup will take at least six years.

“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 Regional Administrator Pete Lopez said.

“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.”

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