FEBRUARY 2012

EPA releases options for Gowanus Canal clean up

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a study of the options for cleaning up chemical contamination in the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, New York. The Gowanus Canal was added to the Superfund list of the country’s most hazardous waste sites in March 2010.

The study builds on an EPA investigation that confirmed the widespread presence of numerous contaminants in the canal and found that exposure to the contaminants poses threats to people’s health and the environment. The newly completed feasibility study evaluates the technologies that could be used to clean up the canal, and will be used to develop a plan for the Gowanus.

“Contamination in the Gowanus Canal continues to pose health risks, especially to people who eat fish or crabs from the canal,” said Judith A. Enck, EPA regional administrator. “The study of options for cleaning up the Gowanus Canal is a critical step toward a full-scale clean up that will protect people’s health and revitalize this urban waterway.”

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

In January 2011, the EPA released assessments of the health and ecological risks associated with contaminants in the Gowanus Canal. The health assessment found risks to people from eating fish and crabs caught in the canal and regular contact with canal water and sediment.

Completed in 1869, the Gowanus Canal was once a major transportation route. Manufactured gas plants, paper mills, tanneries and chemical plants are among the many facilities that had operated along the canal.