GOWANUS — The developers building 700 apartments along the polluted Gowanus Canal have agreed to help clean up the toxic soil beneath their project, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday.
Under a proposed settlement with the EPA, two subsidiaries of the Lightstone Group will perform $20 million worth of cleanup work, including removing 17,500 cubic yards of contaminated soil and conducting tests to find the source of the contamination.
The developer has also agreed to construct a bulkhead — a wall along the canal that will help prevent contamination from spreading.
“The removal of contaminated soil and the other actions proposed under this agreement will reduce pollution along the Gowanus Canal and serve as a model for addressing the impacts of future potential development along the Canal,” EPA Regional Administrator Judith A. Enck said in a statement.
Though the agreement was described as a "settlement" in the EPA announcement, a spokesman for Lightstone was quick to point out that the agreement was not the result of any legal action or friction between the developer and the federal agency.
“We have worked with EPA from day one cooperatively and collaboratively," spokesman Ethan Geto said. "They are extremely supportive of the Lightstone project. They see development as a way for the private sector to come in and spend hundreds of millions of dollars cleaning up the land.”
Lightstone will use "state-of-the-art materials" to build the bulkhead, and will also construct new storm sewers and a waterfront esplanade that will absorb stormwater run-off, a source of pollution in the canal, Geto said.
Lightstone started construction earlier this year on a 12-story tower at Bond and Second streets, along the canal. The apartments will be built on land that once housed pollutant-spewing companies such as "oil terminals, dry cleaners, manufacturing and warehousing," the EPA said in a press release.
Those industrial businesses left the land riddled with heavy metals and chemicals including PCBs, which are believed to cause cancer.
The EPA is scheduled to start work in 2017 on a multi-year $506 million cleanup of the Gowanus Canal, a Superfund site that's among the most polluted waterways in the country.
The public is invited to submit comments on the settlement until Oct. 8. The settlement can be read on the EPA's website.