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Pilot Project Advances EPA’s Cleanup of Gowanus Canal Superfund Site in Brooklyn, NY

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Elias Rodriguez (

(New York, N.Y.) This week marks the one-year anniversary of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Superfund Task Force Report. The Superfund Task Force was commissioned to provide recommendations on how EPA could streamline and improve the Superfund program. EPA has made significant progress in carrying out the report’s recommendations. The Agency also finalized its plans for completing all 42 recommendations by the end of 2019, which are outlined in a new 2018 Update to the Superfund Task Force recommendations.

“EPA has improved the health, living conditions, and economic opportunity of thousands of people living near Superfund sites over the past year as the Agency worked to implement the Task Force recommendations,” said EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “I am proud of the accomplishments achieved by EPA’s hardworking staff, and we will continue to engage directly with stakeholders and communities near Superfund sites to accelerate cleanup and promote economic revitalization. Our plan to complete Task Force recommendations by the end of 2019 will ensure this work continues as one of EPA’s highest priorities.”

“Tremendous progress has been made at this site, and what we are learning here will be applied to the overall cleanup of the Gowanus Canal,” said EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez. “This pilot project is serving its purpose – to show us what works best and what may not work as well under real-world conditions as we move toward full-scale cleanup of this highly-contaminated canal.”

Today, EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez, Dan Wiley, Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez’s District Director for Southwest Brooklyn, other dignitaries and community members looked on as the dredging and capping pilot project at the Gowanus Canal Superfund site in Brooklyn, N.Y. enters its final phase. Under EPA oversight, approximately 17,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment have been dredged from the Gowanus Canal’s 4th Street turning basin. Work is currently underway to cap the bottom. The project will inform the overall engineering design that will lead to the dredging and capping of the Gowanus Canal. The pilot study began in October 2017 and is expected to be completed later this fall.

Under the pilot project, steel sheet piles walls were installed along the sides of the canal to allow dredging work to be performed safely and sediment was removed and taken off-site for treatment and disposal. In the final phase, layers of sand, clay, and activated carbon-absorbing materials will be placed on the turning basin bottom to create a clean canal bottom.

Gowanus Canal dredging and capping pilot project. (Photo courtesy of Pardon Me for Asking Blog)

Background: Overall Gowanus Canal Cleanup

More than a dozen contaminants, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and heavy metals, including mercury, lead, and copper, are present at high levels in the sediment in the Gowanus Canal. PAHs, PCBs, and heavy metals were also found in the Canal water.

The cleanup plan for the Gowanus Canal Superfund site includes dredging to remove contaminated sediment from the bottom of the Canal, which has accumulated because of industrial and combined sewer overflow (CSO) discharges. Following dredging during the full-scale cleanup, dredged areas will be capped. In addition, certain areas of the native sediment that contain mobile liquid tar will be mixed with cement and solidified to prevent the migration of the tar. The cleanup plan also includes controls to reduce CSO discharges and other land-based sources of pollution, such as street runoff, from compromising the cleanup. The design for the cleanup of the upper canal is to be completed in spring 2019. EPA expects that the implementation of the final cleanup will be covered by a future agreement with, or order by, the EPA. Full-scale dredging of the remainder of the Canal is expected to start in 2020. The estimated cost of the cleanup is $506 million.

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EPA’s Superfund Task Force web site: