To clean Gowanus, Columbia Street gets messy

Feds: We know where Gowanus Canal filth is
The Brooklyn Paper / Kate Emerson

The clean-up of the smelly Gowanus Canal is really going to stink for people in the Columbia Street Waterfront District.

Construction needed to improve the water in the polluted canal will disrupt the quality of life of residents living two neighborhood away, thanks to the city’s $50-million rehabilitation of a “flushing tunnel” that runs from the top of the filthy canal to the Buttermilk Channel between Brooklyn and Governors Island.

That and an $85-million upgrade of an adjacent wastewater pumping station in the Canal zone will mean road work for the next three years at several key intersections.

At Columbia Street and Tiffany Place, blocks way from the top of the canal, the project has already “been very disruptive to the neighborhood,” said Tiffany Place resident Mina Roustayi. “I understand the environmental reasons for it, but I’m concerned with the parking — we’ve already lost 10-13 spaces.”

And it’s not just the noise and inconvenience she’s worried about.

“I’m concerned with all the vibrations and what that will do to the buildings,” she said.

Department of Environmental Protection officials briefed Community Board 6 on Thursday night about the work, and insisted that the work will inconvenience the fewest number of people.

Spokeswoman Mercedes Padilla said that street closures have been minimized by installing a mile-plus–long force main — the discharge pipeline from the Gowanus wastewater pumping station at Butler Street — to a sewer within the flushing tunnel that forces sewage to a treatment plant in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

“This method eliminates a mile-and-a half of ‘open cut’ construction that would have otherwise been required through tight streets, historic neighborhoods and congested intersections,” Padilla noted.

Still, street closures will be required at various locations to access the flushing tunnel and construct the force main.

The areas include:

• Butler Street between Bond and Nevins Streets: The sidewalk and approximately one lane of the street will be closed directly in front of the Gowanus facilities site for approximately 40 months. One lane of traffic and the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street will be maintained at all times. This closure is required to construct a temporary force main from the temporary wastewater pumping station to the existing sewer so that pumping of wastewater is maintained during the reconstruction and upgrade of the existing wastewater pumping station.

• Degraw Street and Tompkins Place: One lane of Degraw Street at the intersection of Tompkins Place will be closed for 26 months. According to the agency, there is an existing access chamber to the underground flushing tunnel here and it will be used to access the tunnel for inspection and delivery of materials for the construction of the force main. This location is the only access to the tunnel at its midpoint.

• Degraw Street: Degraw Street from Columbia Street to Tiffany Place will be closed to traffic for approximately nine months. This is required for the construction of a below-ground chamber that will transition the wastewater force main from the flushing tunnel to the street. One lane of traffic will be opened after this one-month period, and the remaining lane will be closed for approximately 17 months. A bike lane from Columbia that turns right into Degraw will be shifted away from the construction.

During the upgrades, the flushing tunnel will be turned off, necessitating a temporary system to oxygenate the water using aeration piping. Without the system, which is marked by buoys, the canal’s trademark stink would return with a vengeance. The temporary system will be running in August.

All the work is independent of the canal’s federally overseen Superfund clean-up.