Whole Foods Gowanus site to be clean by April

Whole Foods remains intent on developing its property along the Gowanus Canal, a toxic site that should be cleaned by April, an environmental consultant for the company said this week.

“Everything I know is that Whole Foods is committed to putting a Whole Foods on the site,” said John Bogdanski, a senior project manager with the consulting firm BL Companies.

Bogdanski told Community Board 6’s Environmental Protection Committee this week that Whole Foods is in the final phase of a cleanup that began in 2005 at the site, Third Avenue and Third Street.

The work is being overseen by the state Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Health, two agencies that must sign off on the cleanup to guarantee it is protective of human health and the environment.

Presently, activity that may be observed includes site preparation, including the installation of a fence and trailers being moved on the site, once home to a number of industrial operations, including lumberyards, coal yards, and a petroleum oil company.

Whole Foods is paying for an clean-up of the site under the DEC’s Brownfield Cleanup Program, which gives incentives to developers to remediate former industrial sites.

Next week, workers will excavate parts of the site, ultimately removing underground steel storage tanks that once held petroleum and other materials. Isolated areas of contaminated soil will also be excavated and removed, and replaced with two-feet of “virgin” soil, Bogdanski said.

“In two months, you will see the site fenced in and all the holes filled,” Bogdanski said. “Expect it clean by April.”In the mean time though, locals will notice more truck traffic in the area, he warned.

Area residents like Steven Miller remained skeptical of the company’s cleanup plan, and its involvement — or lack thereof — with the community. “There is a disconnect between this idea of Whole Foods and the amount of communication,” Miller said. “We need amore interactive approach.”

Resident Linda Mariano pointed out that this was the first meeting in five years between the community and Whole Foods — even though a representative for the organic retailer never spoke at the Feb. 22 meeting.

But Bogdanski insisted that the company is tackling the problem head on. “What Whole Foods is doing is to address the problem at its source and remove that soil,” Bogdanski said.

Whole Foods spokesperson Michael Sinatra said in December that the company is “fully committed” to the site, but unable to provide a timetable for the store’s construction. The company has said it is now actively searching for development partners to see the project through. Once the cleanupis completed, the company will “reassess and determine the timetable for the store, if there will be a store,” he said.

The cleanup at the site will proceed irrespective of what the Environmental Protection Agency decides to do with the canal, which is being considered for inclusion in the Superfund Program.