Yuck! Gowanus polluters could stall cleanup for up to eight years

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Associated Press / Mic Smith

They’re playing their Trump card!

Long-time polluters of the Gowanus Canal forced to pay for its clean-up by the Federal Government are using stall tactics to slow the project by up to eight years in hopes that President Trump’s wacky positions on the environment will eventually get them out of completing the job, activists said this week.

A group of contaminators that includes National Grid and approximately two dozen others filed a timeline with the Feds in February that drags out work by tacking on unnecessary studies along with tests that have already been completed — the project’s manager claims — a move that could have something to do with the sometime climate change denier in the White House.

“The [polluters] are taking full advantage of that,” said Carroll Gardens resident Katia Kelly, a member of the so-called Superfund site’s Community Advisory Group. “It seemed right after the election there seems to be a discrepancy when it comes to the schedule.”

And even if Trump doesn’t kill the clean-up, the new schedule will delay the project up to eight years, project manager Christos Tsiamis said at the group monthly meeting on Tuesday, as first reported by local blog Pardon Me For Asking.

“With this schedule forget about completion by 2022,” said project manager Christos Tsiamis. “So we’re going to the end of the decade for completing the canal, not 2022 but it will be closer to 2030.”

The Environmental Protection agency has already used existing information on the canal from the Army Corps of Engineers and conducted its own analyses to make sure everything is up to snuff, but the polluters insist on going back and doing their own time consuming work, Tsiamis said.

“We don’t have to go and investigate every particle of sand in the sediment. That’s not what’s happening with the work right now,” he said. “[It] forces me to send mail to them to tell them to stop wasting your money, you’re wasting my time.”

Tsiamis has already sent several requests to the polluters demanding they buck up, but said he can’t guarantee how successful they will be. The agency could also take the responsible parties to court, but a lawsuit would take years and delay the project even further, he said. He added the cleanup can still be completed on time as long as the parties involved agree to play ball.

But the responsible parties claim they’re doing what they can to get the job done and they need to do the supplemental studies to ensure accuracy and safety, said a National Grid rep, although she refused to say if one of the motivations for stalling was the possibility of one day getting out of the cleanup entirely.

“This process has been expedited and the responsible parties are working cooperatively to meet the more ambitious timeline while also being mindful of the need to create a design that is safe, constructible and sustainable,” said spokeswoman Karen Young.

National Grid has already taken steps to foot the cleanup bill — it hiked its rates last year to pay for its many so-called Superfund obligations around the city.

Outraged locals believe that the sludge-spewing companies are not stepping up to the plate and promise to make their life hell until they stop mucking around.

“I have always said it is criminal to go ahead and not step up to the responsibilities we all know they have,” said Kelly. “I think the only thing we can do as a community.”

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill