Today’s news:

Sludge parks for Gowanus

The Brooklyn Paper

The toxic sludge that makes the Gowanus Canal an environmental nightmare would be the foundation for a new park just blocks from the fetid waterway, under a federal proposal.

The Environmental Protection Agency is considering burying some of the sludge dredged from the canal during the Superfund cleanup in new landfills at the Fourth Street Basin in Gowanus and the Columbia Street Grain Elevator in Red Hook — two sites just a stone’s throw away from the foul-smelling inlet — then topping the muck with soil to create permanent man-made open space.

The EPA has built similar so-called confined disposal facilities to store treated waste at other toxic sites, including one at the Waukegan Harbor off Lake Michigan in Illinois that was converted into a grassy park space as part of a government cleanup funded by polluters, said the EPA’s Gowanus Canal Superfund project manager Christos Tsiamis.

Workers would retrieve filthy sediment from the least contaminated sections of the canal that don’t contain coal tar, treat the gunk to remove harmful pollutants, and place the sludge in sealed containers roughly eight to 15 feet underground, Tsiamis said.

These steps will ensure sediment scraped from the bottom of the canal, which contains cancer-causing chemicals, will not pose health risks, feds claim.

“[By then] it’s not toxic to the touch,” Tsiamis said. “It’s not a dump for toxic materials.”

The EPA is also studying six other ways to get rid of the contaminated sludge at the bottom of the canal, which is loaded with heavy metals, chemicals and coal tar from manufactured gas plants that operated on the banks of the Gowanus for more than a century.

Cleaning up the gunk is just one part of the proposed $500 million Superfund cleanup — and turning the sludge into Brooklyn landfill is likely cheaper than transporting it to an out-of-state treatment plant or dump, Tsiamis said.

Compassionate conservationists in Gowanus said they could live with the sludge parks — if the waste is disposed of properly.

“There’s a social injustice in putting our waste in another community,” said Andy Simon, the president of the Gowanus Canal Conservancy. “We’re not opposed to [storing it locally] if the EPA can store it safely.”

Marlene Donnelly, a member of Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus, says the putrid sediment shouldn’t stray far from its home.

“[The sludge] is already in our backyard,” said Donnelly. “It’s the pollution that made Brooklyn. We should live with the result.

“To take our waste and dump it in someone else’s backyard is not a good thing.”

The defunct silo complex at the foot of Columbia Street was proposed as a possible storage location by members of the community advisory group monitoring the Superfund cleanup, Tsiamis said.

But the site is privately owned, potentially complicating its transition to a public park.

The Army Corps of Engineers first proposed using the Fourth Street Basin as a storage facility for contaminated waste in a study on ways to restore the Gowanus that was shelved when the EPA took control of cleaning the waterway in 2009.

The basin, which forms a spur off the canal at Fourth Street, collects stormwater runoff and abuts the proposed Whole Foods site at Third Street and Third Avenue.

A Whole Foods spokesman did not return calls seeking comment.

The EPA is set to announce a final cleanup plan for the canal later this year, four years before its Superfund cleanup is scheduled to begin.

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Reader Feedback

Greg from Gowanus says:
Glad to see this getting some play in the Brooklyn Paper, even if the story really happened about 2 weeks ago when the EPA announced this alternative
Feb. 9, 2012, 9:25 am
Joe from Gowanus says:
EPA thinks another dump on our shoreline is a good idea? A park in that location is also stupid - there's abundant open space for recreation in Red Hook and proposed for Sunset Park. The EPA needs to rethink what's best for our community.
Feb. 9, 2012, 9:28 am
Scott from Park Slope says:
The foot of Columbia does not make much sense because they have a lot of green space with the soccer fields and IKEA-built waterfront parks; they even have a very large community garden. But the Fourth Street basin in the heart of the Gowanus makes a lot of sense. There is no park near there. You either now trudge many blocks up the hill to Prospect Park, or many blocks west to the nascent Brooklyn Bridge Park.

The nature of the waste and the manner in which is stored is key. Nobody wants to lay on turf that gives them skin cancer or for their kids to play catch on a field that poisons them. But if those concerns are adequately addressed, it seems OK.
Feb. 9, 2012, 11:30 am
Abe from Brooklyn says:
Don't know what Joe from Gowanus has in mind that he can't imagine open space area in Gowanus.

Open space in Gowanus could serve to resolve far more problems in Gowanus than just providing recreation area--nothing stupid about that.

Would love to see these reporters provide more information and details.
Feb. 9, 2012, 4:24 pm
adamben from bedstuy says:
would it kill ya to show a map once in awhile with the articles for those of us who don't know every nook and krany of brooklyn? for cryin' out loud wid ya.
Feb. 9, 2012, 4:56 pm
Adrastos from Bensonhurst says:
Anything along the Canal that is gren is better than nothing.
I think all the basins along the canal should be filled in and planted over.

Hopefully someday, probably not in my lifetime, the canal area will actually be pretty.
Because the concept of a canal running through the streets of Brooklyn is nice.

Can it ever be like Amsterdam? hopefully....
Feb. 10, 2012, 9:32 am
Robert T from Windsor Terrace says:
If the Gowanus canal is ever clean enough to swim in or live next to, that Fourth Street basin ought to stay waterfront, with some park land added around it, or partly filling it. Make the basin multi-use.
Feb. 10, 2012, 11:46 am
Joe from Gowanus says:
The unused Ikea park is a good example - dumb use of prime waterfront - no one goes to that park. Existing Gowanus parks (D&D, Fran Brady under the Tracks,etc) are not maintaiined because of limited City resources - will the EPA be maintaining this new park?

Once again, the EPA fails to disclose the full environmental impacts of their actions. Let's imagine better uses for prime waterfront property and devote resources to improve existing Gowanus parks!

Robert, we have been living next to the Gowanus for generations without any health issues.
Feb. 10, 2012, 12:06 pm
X from Red Hook says:
Problem with most bloggers is they respond without putting in the effort to first educate themselves. What "Joe f Gowanus" doesn't know is that the bulk of Columbia would be for 4 maritime economic development, with ships & barges taking trucks off the road and creating jobs 4 a community that wants/needs them. It's also a responsible approach which doesn't dump our problem elsewhere. Only a portion of the new land would be 4 a waterfront Park (i heard a museum could be included).

It has something for everyone - Very Imaginative, A Great Solution!
Feb. 12, 2012, 12:16 pm
May from Carroll Gardens says:
Folks, did you read what the EPA said?

The dredge will go through DETOX! No need for the paper to call them "Sludge Parks" or have comments saying "...dump on our shoreline, skin cancer, poisons, etc.".

The statements as taken from the EPA were both informative and responsible. Statements from others quoted in the article clearly agree.

The paper should not sensationalize headlines to attract readers and distort interpretation.
Feb. 12, 2012, 9:40 pm
Bill Appel from Carroll Gardens/Gowanus says:
Over the next decade our Gowanus Canal is poised to become a great community asset. Why clean one portion and fill in another? All inlets and basins should be cleaned as best possible to encourage the long overdue residential and commercial development; ultimately uniting the thriving communities on the east and west banks of the canal.
Bill Appel
Gowanus Canal CDC
Feb. 13, 2012, 10:05 am
Ray Hall from redhook says:
Why is it that people from the outside always think they know better than the folks who live in Red Hook?

We love the waterfront park at IKEA and the jobs that were created there. Same at Fairway, waterfront access and jobs! What's stupid about that?

Let's keep the good ideas coming for Red Hook - Thanks EPA, let's work/build Red Hook together.”
Feb. 15, 2012, 7:11 pm
Lillie Marshall from RHW housing says:
Redhook is a wonderful community and wish all would finally see this. We are striving harder each day to improve Redhook with more jobs, what we need more are entreprenuers. I have a few ideas in mind that I will be implementing very soon that will make things even better where we live. I've been in Redhook since 1966 seen the good , bad or what ever. Each day redhook gets beter.
Feb. 16, 2012, 2:10 pm

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