Superfund

Initially, funding for a US Army Corp Restoration Feasibility Study of the Gowanus Canal, under the Hudson Raritan Estuary Restoration Program, was provided by Congresswomen Nydia Velazquez. A significant environmental analysis was undertaken by the Army Corp who were planning for wetlands restoration in the Gowanus. The program was run in partnership with the City’s Department of Environmental Protection (NYC DEP). The Army Corp report for Hudson-Raritan Estuary explained:

Congress authorized a separate feasibility study under the HRE to assess the environmental problems and potential solution remediation of hazardous materials and ecosystem restoration the Gowanus Canal. Restoration efforts at this site will likely include hot-spot removal, contaminant reduction measures, wetland creation, water quality improvement, and alteration of hydrology/hydraulics to improve water flow and quality.

The Army Corp presented an preliminary report to the community in 2004, then the work seemed to stalled. The roll of DEP and Army Corp partnership seemed to be the cause of stalled work.

In 2006, and again in 2008 FROGG and several other local groups joined with State Senator Velmanette Montgomery to hold a community form to discuss the roll of each branch of government in achieving a clean healthy environment for the Gowanus Region. The panel discussions included representatives from the US Army Corp Harbor division, representatives form the City’s Department of Environmental Preservation (DEP, the folks who run the city sewer system), representatives from NY State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), and representatives form the Federal EPA. During those discussions, when the community asked the EPA why they did not under take a comprehensive cleanup of the canal, EPA replied that they didn’t have jurisdiction for such action. That began to change when in December 2008 the then NYS DEC Commissioner Peter Grannis sent a letter to the EPA asking that they evaluate the Gowanus Canal as a potential Federal Superfund Site.

Over the following year, the EPA under took an evaluation which found that the Gowanus Canal qualified for the National Priority Superfund Listing. The City of New York, under the direction of Mayor Bloomberg, opposed the Superfund Listing by proposing a quickly patched together alternative cleanup plan based on public funding through the Army Corp of Engineers. The city had been working under an agreement with the Army Corp to carry out Wetlands Restoration in the Gowanus for more than eight years. The work was stalled, many say by the city, and no actual work has gone forward in the canal. The community welcomed having the EPA take a chance at a cleanup and fought hard to ensure that the voices and hopes of the local community were well considered in making the decision to establish the first federal Superfund Site in the city of New York.

In March 2010, the EPA announced their decision and placed the Gowanus Canal on the National Priorities List of Superfund Sites.

New York Times:

Gowanus Canal Gets Superfund Status
Published: March 2, 2010
A designation by the Environmental Protection Agency paves the way for a federal cleanup of pollution.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/03/nyregion/03gowanus.html