EPA comments on sunken barge carrying Gowanus Canal toxic sediment
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to investigate the incident that caused a barge containing material dredged from the Gowanus Canal, as part of the continuous operations at that Superfund Site project, to become submerged, under high tide conditions, in the Gowanus Bay. The barge was filled on January 22 with an estimated 850 tons of material dredged from the canal. This work is part of the dredging remedy being performed by potentially responsible parties (PRPs) for the site. The barge was permitted to be moored at a specific location in the Gowanus Bay.
On January 25, EPA was notified that the barge was resting upright on mudflats and it was partially submerged. Given the tide cycle, the barge had likely been submerged to varying degrees depending on the tide.
On Tuesday, January 26, Cashman, a contractor for the canal site, successfully pumped water from the sunken barge into a separate, empty barge and the barge was refloated. After refloating the barge, a small hole was identified and was subsequently patched. While this appears to be the cause of the incident, EPA is continuing to investigate. Following Coast Guard approval, the barge was safely moved to the Gowanus Canal dredge staging site at Smith and Huntington Streets so that the sediments on the barge could be dewatered. No visible sheens were observed after the incident was noted and initial observations indicate that the bulk of the sediment in the hopper container within the barge remains in place.
While EPA is confident that no adverse impacts to human health resulted from this incident, EPA takes this incident seriously and is reviewing field operations associated with this Superfund cleanup. The dredging of the canal was temporarily halted so that efforts could concentrate on addressing the barge and barge operations.
EPA has informed the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group, as well as federal, state, and local partners, of the incident and will continue to update the public as more information becomes available via the Gowanus Canal Superfund Site website and through updates, as needed.
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