Flushing tunnel back online and Department of Environmental Protection will not estimate when it will break next

Gowanus Canal gets its motor running, but for how long?

The Brooklyn Paper
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There might be a light at the end of this tunnel.

The city reactivated the Gowanus Canal’s on-again,-off-again flushing tunnel on Wednesday, but the jury is still out on whether the drainage system will finally live up to its century-old promise and freshen the fetid canal.

“This needs to be effective,” said Gowanus Alliance president Paul Basile. “This is the first key element of the clean canal. It will never been sustainable without this.”

The 1.2-mile-long tube was installed 102 years ago to pump polluted water from the canal into Buttermilk Channel, the East River passageway that separates Governors Island from Brooklyn. The tunnel broke in the 1960s and the canal sat stagnant until the city started it up again in 1999, reversing the flow so that water from the Buttermilk Channel flushed into the still-stinky canal, only to have it turned off once more as part of the feds’ $506-million canal clean-up. The city’s Department of Environmental Protection would not give an estimate of how long it will be before the next breakdown.

The tunnel has three turbine pumps that will funnel in the oxygen-rich water, but the machinery is not yet moving the promised 100-million gallons per day it should, the department said. Two pumps are being kept deactivated to avoid stirring up the toxic gunk at the bottom of the canal and to keep from breaking the tunnel itself after three years with no motion from the ocean.

Officials believe restarting the drainage system could eventually make Brooklyn’s nautical purgatory livable for fish, crabs, and all kinds of aquatic life. Officials doubt it will ever be safe to eat aquatic critters out of the canal, even after the federal government is finished scraping its bottom and sealing the remaining mercury and heavy metals under concrete as part of its Superfund scrub-down.

But one local leader sure hopes the water-mover works this time around.

“We are wildly optimistic about this because having reliable infrastructure in place is essential for the future environmental and economic viability of the Gowanus Canal,” Community Board 6 district manager Craig Hammerman said.

Reach reporter Megan Riesz at or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her on Twitter @meganriesz.
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Reasonable discourse

Thomas Lawrence from Brooklyn Heights says:

"Artists" as interlopers. That's rich. Where are you coming from? You seem to think "artists" are some kind of blight on the neighborhood. That' a weird kind of prejudice. Happy Holidays.
Dec. 23, 2013, 1:40 pm
diehipster from Electricuting Ethans says:

Everyone is an "artist" nowadays in the new whimsical land of Brooklyn. Now do you get it?
Dec. 23, 2013, 3:56 pm
dipsternot from south brooklyn says:
This is the most perverted piece of infrastructure that belongs to 19th century thinking--when toilets were invented.
The city has been spending money to just push out the sewage from the canal rather than developing a system that could contain that sewage in the bowels of the city's sewer pipe system.
So now the folks in Sunset Park and Red Hook will get to enjoy the mess shown in the photo. Just who in their right mind would consider that progress?
Dec. 28, 2013, 1:32 pm

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