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Water under the Gardens: A look back at 102 years of flushing tunnel malfunctions

The Gowanus Canal’s flushing tunnel is back online, but it is anybody’s guess how long it will be before the crusty tube goes silent again. Join us for a look back at the putrid pipe’s history.

1911: The canal is gross after four decades as an industrial waterway. The flushing tunnel is built to push water from the channel into the New York Harbor.

1961: Service on the tube is suspended due to mechanical failure.

1994: The Department of Environmental Protection begins a rehabilitation of the system, reversing the flow to bring harbor water into the head of the fetid canal.

1999: Work is completed and the pumps are turned on again. The city proclaims that schools of fish and blue crabs have miraculously returned.

2008: The city announces that it will close the pipe for two years to prep for the canal’s federal Superfund clean-up.

2010: The drainage system comes back online briefly, but then closes for further repairs.

May 2013: Mayor Bloomberg declares that the city will spend $160-million to make the tube move 215-million gallons of seawater into the canal every day — 60-million gallons more than it could prior to the 2010 shutdown.

December 2013: City officials hail the reactivation of the tunnel, which they say will bring up 100-million gallons of fresh water daily, for now.

— Megan Riesz

Reach reporter Megan Riesz at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her on Twitter @meganriesz.

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