Toxic Sludge Dredged from Gowanus Could Create New Brooklyn Parks

02/10/2012 11:19 AM |

Mmmmmmm, sludge. (Photo: Katia Kelly/EPA)
  • Mmmmmmm, sludge. (Photo: Katia Kelly/EPA)

Among the more pressing logistical concerns surrounding the Environmental Protection Agency’s forthcoming cleanup of the Gowanus Canal is what to do with all the carcinogenic sludge dredged up from its slimy, sewage-y depths. One scenario the federal agency is contemplating for the Superfund site’s extracted sediment is to use it as landfill for new public open spaces in Gowanus and Red Hook.

The sites that might take the sludge are the canal-adjacent—and future Whole Foods-neighboring—4th Street basin, where storm-water runoff collects, and Red Hook’s Columbia Street Grain Elevator, the Brooklyn Paper reports. Before being interred the toxic sludge—which would be the site’s least toxic, free of coal tar—would be treated to have all its pollutants removed. Then the dredged stuff would be buried eight to 15 feet underground in sealed containers, which would in turn be covered with soil to create new green spaces.

The strategy, which the EPA has used in the past at other sites around the country including one near Lake Michigan, would prevent the toxic materials from contaminating surrounding ground at the new sites. At that point, “it’s not toxic to the touch,” Gowanus Canal Superfund project manager Christos Tsiamis asserts. “It’s not a dump for toxic materials.”

Predictably, some locals aren’t fond of this particular plan, one of six that the EPA is considering for its Superfund clean-up of the site that’s scheduled to begin in 2016. Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus member Marlene Donnelly, for one, is weirdly attached to the toxic slime: “It’s the pollution that made Brooklyn. We should live with the result. [...] To take our waste and dump it in someone else’s backyard is not a good thing.” The EPA will settle on a cleanup plan later this year.

Follow Benjamin Sutton on Twitter @LMagArt

4 Comment

  • Why even take the chance?

  • The “take a chance” part is done. Of all the alternatives for dealing with the mess, choose the one most viable. You just want it in “sombody elses back yard” rather than your own. Face facts–no place in Brooklyn is pristine. Why should it go contaminate someplace else? Superfund people are the worlds experts at dealing with this stuff. They have a good record and I think they can be trusted.

  • The “take a chance part” is not done. Yes, the toxic sludge exists and something must be done with it, but surely using it to create parkland where children will play is not the only alternative, and I really doubt it is the best one. And I don’t live in Gowanus, so this is not my back yard we’re talking about.

    You seem to have a lot of confidence in the experts knowing what they are doing. Based on past experience, I would say they are quite capable of overestimating their own abilities and failing to anticipate complications.

  • Where did anyone get this idea that the site would become park land. Surely you can’t believe these lame reports that provide no real information.The fourth street basin w/treated materials barrier in basin, would remain a water channel and I don’t know many children who can walk on water.