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News Releases from Region 02

EPA and National Grid Reach Major Agreement on Gowanus Canal Superfund Site Cleanup

05/29/2018
Contact Information: 
David Kluesner (kluesner.dave@epa.gov)
212-637-3653

(New York, N.Y. –  May 29, 2018) Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a $100 million agreement with National Grid for cleanup of the Gowanus Canal Superfund site in Brooklyn, New York. The milestone settlement will support cleanup work near the head of the Gowanus Canal, including the cleanup and restoration of Thomas Greene Park, as well as the Douglass and DeGraw Pool.   

“This agreement will enable the remediation and revitalization of a heavily contaminated waterway and one of the neighborhood’s most popular recreational areas,” said EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. “EPA is prioritizing the Superfund program so that sites in densely populated urban areas, such as the Gowanus Canal, are addressed quickly and thoroughly.”

“Administrator Pruitt is revitalizing the Superfund program and this settlement will accelerate the cleanup of one of the nation’s most contaminated waterbodies,” said EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez. “This agreement harnesses the power of community partnerships to address contamination underneath a cherished public park and pool while advancing the redevelopment of the surrounding neighborhoods. EPA, together with National Grid and the City of New York, will continue to work closely with the community on the design and construction of both a temporary and replacement pool and park.”

“I’m pleased to see this settlement agreement reached as it will mean community resources are maintained during cleanup of the Gowanus Canal,” said Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY). “I thank the local EPA staff who have worked so diligently on this project over the years. It is important that the community retain access to a nearby pool during the remediation of the park site and Canal. To that end, I will continue working to ensure maximum community input in securing a temporary and permanent replacement for the pool.”

Under this settlement, National Grid will, among other obligations:

  • Build a sealed bulkhead/barrier wall on the east side of the Canal between Butler and Union Streets to prevent coal tar from spreading to the Canal and to support dredging;

   •    Address contamination at the Thomas Greene Park through excavation and mixing cement into contaminated soil (a process called solidification) to permanently lock up          coal tar and other contaminants;

  •    Design, site, and construct a temporary swimming pool to operate while the park is closed; and

  • Design and permanently replace the pool and impacted park areas.

Today’s settlement is part of the overall cleanup of the Gowanus Canal Superfund site in Brooklyn, New York. EPA and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) are coordinating closely on the cleanup. The NYS DEC has an ongoing agreement with National Grid to address some of the contamination in the area.

This settlement is integral to the city’s work under its own June 2016 settlement with EPA, which requires the city to complete the design for the larger of two combined sewage and stormwater overflow (CSO) retention tanks selected in the 2013 Canal cleanup decision; acquire two privately owned parcels located at 242 Nevins Street and 234 Butler Street for siting the tank; and acquire a staging area. If the city doesn’t acquire those properties, which are also contaminated with coal tar, that tank will be sited at the park. Construction of the sealed bulkhead is expected to begin later in 2018. The remaining work may take up to six years, depending on the city’s acquisition of the properties.   

Background: Overall Gowanus Canal Cleanup

The area underneath Thomas Greene Park is contaminated with coal tar. The Park is one of eight parcels that are part of the New York state-designated Former Fulton Manufactured Gas Plant Site, many parts of which are being addressed under a separate agreement between the state and National Grid. More than a dozen contaminants, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and heavy metals, including mercury, lead, and copper, were found at high levels in the sediment in the Gowanus Canal. PAHs and heavy metals were also found in the canal water.

The final cleanup plan of the Gowanus Canal Superfund site includes dredging to remove contaminated sediment from the bottom of the Canal, which has accumulated because of industrial and sewer discharges. The dredged areas will then be capped. The plan also includes controls to reduce CSO discharges and other land-based sources of pollution from compromising the cleanup. The engineering design work for the project will be completed shortly after the conclusion of a current dredging and capping pilot taking place in the 4th Street Turning Basin. EPA expects that the implementation of the final remedy will be covered by a future agreement with, or order by, EPA. Full-scale dredging of the remainder of the Canal is expected to start in 2020.

The EPA has identified numerous parties that are potentially responsible for the contamination of the Gowanus Superfund site, including National Grid, the City of New York, and other private and federal government entities.

The settlement can be found on the EPA’s website, please visit: www.epa.gov/superfund/gowanus-canal.

Photo courtesy of Pardon Me For Asking Blog

Photo courtesy of Pardon Me For Asking Blog

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Superfund Task Force. In May 2017 Administrator Scott Pruitt established a task force to restore EPA&s Superfund program to its rightful place at the center of the Agency&s core mission to protect health and the environment. Click here to learn more.