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EPA Releases $500 Million Gowanus Canal Cleanup Plan

By Heather Holland | December 28, 2012 3:10pm

GOWANUS — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says cleaning up the contaminated Gowanus Canal is expected to cost between $467 and $504 million.

The cleanup plan calls for removing some of the toxic sediment from the canal, covering some dredged areas, the EPA announced this week. The proposal also suggests installing controls to prevent raw sewage overflows and other land-based sources of contamination from polluting the canal in the future.

"The proposed cleanup plan for the Gowanus Canal will make essential progress in removing toxic contaminants from this heavily polluted and battered waterway," said Judith Enck, regional administrator of the EPA, in a statement. "Our overall goal is to reduce pollution and protect the health of people who live and work in this community."

High levels of more than a dozen contaminants — including mercury, lead, copper, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) — have been found in the canal, the EPA said.

"The fact that we're talking about how to clean up the Gowanus, rather than whether it will get cleaned, is pretty significant," said Craig Hammerman, district manager of Community Board Six in Brooklyn. "We've made a great deal of progress, but there's still a long way to go."

In the plan, the EPA is proposing to dredge nearly 307,000 cubic yards of the highly contaminated sediment. In some areas where the sediment is tainted with liquid coal tar, the EPA proposes to "stabilize" the sediment by mixing it with concrete or similar materials, the agency said in a statement.

A Brooklyn concrete magnate has proposed using some of the dredged material to expand a shipping terminal he owns.

The EPA will accept public comments on the proposed cleanup plan until March 28, 2013.

Public meetings to discuss the cleanup plan will be held at 7 p.m. on Jan. 23 at P.S. 58, 330 Smith St. and at 7 p.m. on Jan. 24 at the Joseph Miccio Community Center, 110 W. 9th St.