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.
©2013 Community News Group
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