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.
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