Gowanus Canal Named Superfund Site

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The oily and polluted Gowanus Canal, once dubbed "the Lavender Lake," will be going green with the help of the federal government. The Environmental Protection Agency designated the Brooklyn waterway as a Superfund site.

Photo Gallery: Take a Cruise Down the Gowanus Canal

"We believe that will get us the most efficient and comprehensive cleanup of this urban waterway," says EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck.

Enck says the cleanup will cost between $300 million and $500 million. The EPA will go after known polluters along the canal, such as the natural gas company, National Grid, and the city itself, to pay for the cleanup.

EPA officials say they rejected the city's alternative plan because it relied too heavily on Congress for financing.

Cas Holloway, commissioner of the city's Department of Environmental Protection, says the city's alternative plan would have been faster. Holloway says the city's plan would have restored the canal in nine and a half years, compared to the 10 to 12 years the EPA is estimating.

"So we're disappointed," Holloway says. "But we're gonna work with the EPA moving forward."

Many residents are pleased. Community activist Linda Mariano is glad to have a Superfund site next door. "Well, I've been living next to a Superfund site since 1974," Mariano says. "It just wasn't nominated. That's the way I've looked at it."

Other residents and businesses had opposed the listing, saying it would hurt development. Bill Appel, head of the Gowanus Canal Community Development Corporation, says the Superfund listing will stall development.

"It's devastating," Appel says. "People will realize shortly the adverse effect this will have on the economic viability of the greater Gowanus area."

One developer, Toll Brothers, says it is pulling out of its plans to build 450 units of housing along the canal. David von Spreckelson, project manager for Toll Brothers' Gowanus Canal site, tells WNYC he believes no development will occur in the area for the next 15 years.

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