New York City's Gowanus Canal Declared Superfund Hazardous Waste Site

gowanus canal from F train photo

Does this listing mean the Smith-9th Street F/G train stop the only subway stop above a Superfund site? Photo: Alan Cordova via flickr.

Nearly a year after first being proposed, the Environmental Protection Agency has added Brooklyn's Gowanus Canal to the Superfund list of the United States' most contaminated hazardous waste sites. Since it was constructed in the 1860s, the canal has been the location of manufacturing gas plants, coal yards, concrete-mixing facilities, tanneries, and other heavy industries. For many years raw industrial waste and sewage was dumped into the canal.

gowanus canal map

The Gowanus Canal is the small strip of water marked a 'A'.

Though these practices have stopped, the EPA says the contamination affects the entire 1.8 mile length of the canal. Samples reveal the Gowanus is contaminated with a variety of pollutants, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, heavy metals, pesticides, PCBs, metals, and volatile organic contaminants.

Commenting on the Superfund classification, EPA Regional Admin. Judith Enck said,

After conducting our own evaluations and consulting extensively with the many people who have expressed interest in the future of the Gowanus Canal and the surrounding area, we have determined that a Superfund designation is the best path to a cleanup of this heavily contaminated and long neglected urban waterway. We plan to continue our work with the same spirit of inclusion and involvement that has already been demonstrated, and thank everyone for their focus on this pollution problem.

Placing the Gowanus Canal on the Superfund list allows the EPA to continue investigating the contamination, determine responsible parties, and develop a plan for remediation.

gowanus canal low tide trash photo

In addition to the hazardous waste in the canal, there's also just plenty of trash, as this picture at low tide reveals. Photo: Jeffrey via flickr.

Want to take part in the discussion? Believe it or not there's an EPA Gowanus Canal Facebook group.

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