Superfund for Gowanus

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Walter Mugdan, Director of the Emergency and Remedial Response Division for the EPA's region 2 office (NY. NJ, PR and the USVI), talks about the probable superfund designation of the Gowanus Canal and Robert Spiegel, executive director of the Edison Wetlands Association, talks about what superfund designation meant for several sites in New Jersey.


Walter Mugdan and Robert Spiegel

Comments [13]

Judy from New York

Instead of doing the work, or a helpful hand or some grants to pay for some of the costs of remediation what do we get? Another feasibility study. This time one that will take 10 years to complete. What a waste of government funds.

Also what an unnecessary crimp on private economic stimulus. This is the kind of big government impediment to economic activity that Republicans will have a field day attacking.

While he hopes to have the plan which will contain this decision in 2 to 3 years, he acknowledges that this is just an order of magnitude estimate. Ten years is on the same order of magnitude as 2-3 years. What is ten years among friends?

And when would the actual cleanup occur? In the upper Hudson the work will start next month (hopefully) even though the site was added to the superfund list in 1984. There there was one prp--GE. Here there are probably hundreds. Maybe it will take a hundred years for the work to start.

According to Robert Spiegel of the Edison Wetlands Association, more than ten years have passed and the EPA has not yet prepared plans and feasability studies for many locations in New Jersey. This is despite the fact that the EPA promised the affected communnities that these studies would be prepared promptly.

I think the EPA should concentrate first on completing the studies and cleanups it promised the New Jersey communities, before it even considers adding the Gowanus to its Superfund list.

Since the federal government is probably a prp because of the post office site and since CERCLA provides for joint and several liability, the EPA should however provide generous grants to assist the Army Core of Engineers and local government in the cleanup.The Gowanus Canal should be cleaned up NOW! We do not need another study and plan, we should start to clean.

Apr. 18 2009 07:33 PM
Judy from New York

The Gowanus Canal should be cleaned up NOW! We do not need another study and plan, we should start the cleanup.

If one listens to Mr Mugdan's statements, the EPA's plan is to do another feasbility study. The plan will consider the various remediation alternatives, ranging from doing nothing, capping the sludge at the bottom and doing a complete bank to bank dredging removing all the contaminated sludge, which I understand is the most thorough cleanup.

I can't see why we need to wait ten or more years for this decision. Lets just err on the side of caution if there is uncertainty and decide now what should be done. The Army Core of Engineers and the New York City DEP have just spent over 5 million on a study. Use their findings.

Apr. 18 2009 07:32 PM
GowanusResident from Brooklyn

Felipe from Brooklyn is clearly a part of the public relations campaign to strike fear into the hearts of community! Felipe seems to think that lenders--who are all acting with caution today--would be more inclined to loan money to Gowanus landholders should there be NO Superfund cleanup than if there were a Superfund Cleanup. How is that rational? Wouldn't a cautious lender be more inclined to put their funds into a project that would receive the benefits of the EPA cleanup that one that had no coordinated cleanup?

The individual developers can't do the level of work that needs doing. Cleaning up individual local sites is only a piece of what needs to be done. And beside, new residential development (without Superfund planning) will only add more sewage to the canal waters--then what kind of place would this be to live in? The Gowanus needs Superfund.

Apr. 16 2009 05:02 PM
Bob Spiegel from Edison NJ

The community needs to organize and for a Citizens Advisory Group (CAG) This group can work directly with EPA and advocate for the cleanup and restoration of the canal.

EPA works best when the public is directly involved and educated.

Apr. 15 2009 12:05 PM
Felipe from Brooklyn

Walter Mugdan did a great job at the community meeting last night, but he was not fully truthful about the timing of the Superfund cleanup. First, they have never cleaned a river with so many Potentially Responsible Parties, and since the funding of the cleanup must come from them (either through lawsuits, or voluntarily), the organization of all of those parties and litigation against the designation could mean that the Canal won't begin to get cleaned for possibly 12-15 years. Secondly, Mr. Mugdan makes a great public servant, but a terrible lender. The Superfund designation will serve as a redline to private lenders and limit the credit available to property owners, as lenders always require an environmental analysis. He seems confident that development will continue, but he's absolutely wrong. Disinvestment, higher canal pollution, and decay will occur if this Superfund moves forward.

Apr. 15 2009 11:23 AM
John from Manhattan

How can the process of development of Gowanus Canal be made more transparent?
Perhaps an open design competition? The current proposal is rather uninspiring.

Apr. 15 2009 11:23 AM
Todd from Greenpoint, Brooklyn

Government intervention like this always slows things down. A movement is already underway to clean up the canal. If the government becomes involved, there's no telling when it will get done.

The Clean Air Act of 1970 gave industry until 2010 to become in compliance with the new law. Forty years, and we're not there yet!

Apr. 15 2009 11:20 AM

just, yuck!

Apr. 15 2009 11:19 AM
Mary Arnold from NYC, Queens

It is wonderful that the US EPA is addressing cleanup of the Gowanus Canal. How is US EPA coordinating with the NY Seas Level Rise Task Force, the New York City Panel on Climate Change to plan sensible land use for the canal now -- when storm surge would send contaminated waters, e.g., mercury, flowing into the streets of neighborhoods like Park Slope -- and in the future, e.g., under conditions of seas level rise and more extreme weather events? Responsible protection of property owners and public health -- including by not siting new development in unsafe areas -- should be addressed in addition to the cleanup of past problems.

Apr. 15 2009 11:19 AM
Hugh from Brookyn

How many other SuperFund sites are there in the 5 boroughs? I assume that the Greenpoint/Newtown Creek area is such a site.

Apr. 15 2009 11:18 AM
sara from Brooklyn

Isn't 80% of the pollutants in the Gowanus raw sewage? Not there that isn't industrial waste, but most of it is actually raw sewage. Another reason NYC should separate its rain drainage and sewer system...

Apr. 15 2009 11:15 AM
Robert from Gowanus

Not to mention that "Gowanus Canal" is shorthand/synonymous with "toxic waste site" anyway. It's not as if labelling it a Superfund site is telling anyone anything they shouldn't already know!

Apr. 15 2009 10:14 AM
RJ from Brooklyn

I'm a bit baffled by concerns about "property" values when considering Superfund designation. The designation means there's a life-threatening amount of toxic waste. So "property" owners are more concerned about "property" than life?

Yes, yes, I understand that property means household "wealth" (as compared to "income"), and has an impact on the future financial status of the owner. But financial "wealth" versus "health"? No contest.

Apr. 15 2009 09:53 AM

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