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EPA to Update Public on Work to Clean up Gowanus Canal

Release Date: 12/01/2009
Contact Information: Beth Totman (212) 637-3662,

(New York, NY) While the Agency continues to review and prepare responses to comments received on its proposal to list the Gowanus Canal as a Superfund site, EPA’s work at the canal is progressing. EPA will hold a public meeting on Thursday, December 3, 2009 from 7pm to 9pm to discuss this work, the next steps for the Gowanus cleanup, and options for community members who want to be involved with the project. The meeting will be held at P.S. 32, located at 317 Hoyt Street in Brooklyn.

The Gowanus Canal, which was proposed to the EPA’s Superfund National Priorities List in April 2009, is severely impacted by contamination in the sediment as a result of its industrial history. EPA solicited and received public input on its proposal to list the Gowanus Canal on the Superfund National Priorities List and is currently preparing responses to those comments.

EPA has developed a plan to sample canal sediment in order to better characterize the extent of the contamination and the risks associated with it, and to better understand how much contamination from upland sources is contributing to the contamination of the canal. This information will be used to develop a plan laying out a range of options for cleaning up the canal.

The 100-foot wide canal extends about 1.8 miles from Butler Street to Gowanus Bay in Brooklyn, New York. The adjacent waterfront is primarily commercial and industrial, and consists of concrete plants, warehouses, and parking lots, with proposed residential use. The canal is also surrounded by residential neighborhoods. The waterway is used for commercial, as well as recreational purposes, and a public fishing area is located just downstream of the canal in Gowanus Bay, where fishing occurs.

The canal was built in the 19th century to allow industrial access into Gowanus Bay. After its completion in the 1860s, the canal became a busy industrial waterway, acting as home to heavy industries, including manufactured gas plants, coal yards, concrete-mixing facilities, tanneries, chemical plants, and oil refineries. It also has been the repository of untreated industrial wastes, raw sewage and runoff.

Although most of the heavy industrial activity along the canal has stopped, high contaminant levels remain in the sediments. The extent of the contamination traverses the length of the canal. Sampling has shown the sediments in the Gowanus Canal to be contaminated with a variety of pollutants, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls, metals and volatile organic compounds.

For a Google Earth aerial view of the Gowanus Canal: (Please note that you must have Google Earth installed on your computer to view the map. To download Google Earth, visit For more information about, and documents related to the Gowanus cleanup visit: