Levy metal! Scrappers fined for dumping into Gowanus

Levy metal! Scrappers fined for dumping into Gowanus
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

A scrap metal company paid an $85,000 fine for treating the already-polluted Gowanus Canal like a trash bin.

Benson Scrap Metal regularly dropped chunks of debris into the fetid waterway near Smith Street and Hamilton Avenue before the state cracked down on the company, according to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

“The days when the Gowanus Canal could be treated as a dumping ground are over,” said Schneiderman.

The state started its investigation after locals complained about heaps of rubbish falling from the company’s claw-like cranes as Benson Scrap Metal moved the waste to barges destined for a recycling plant in New Jersey.

Investigators witnessed Benson employees carelessly letting metal detritus drop into the waterway more than 100 times between April 2009 and June 2010, according legal documents.

Benson Scrap Metal forked over $50,000 to cover a fine for the rule-breaking, $27,000 for a penalty for environmental damages incurred, and $8,000 in additional fees.

The company declined to comment to The Brooklyn Paper and directed a reporter to a self-lauding statement released to the industry publication American Metal Market

“Benson is proud of its many years of environmental performance, and its use of barges to transport recycled metal has a positive effect on the environment in that it eliminated countless truck deliveries on already highly congested roads,” the paywall-protected statement reads.

As part of the settlement, the company promised to better its operations and Simsmetal East — which supplies the barges — agreed to follow “best management practices” while loading in the Gowanus Canal. Simsmetal East’s parent company Sims Metal Management had no comment.

The scrap metal was just a drop in the highly tainted bucket that is the Gowanus Canal. The filthy waterway is so badly contaminated with decades of industrial waste — not to mention raw sewage — that the federal government named it a Superfund site worthy of a costly cleanup funded by the polluters themselves.

Neighborhood activists were disappointed to hear a local business treated the unlucky waterway with such disregard.

“It’s unfortunate that they were operating in such an insufficient manner,” said Hans Hesselein of Gowanus Canal Conservancy.