Skip to Content
Streetsblog USA home
Streetsblog USA home
Log In
Public Health

EPA Declares Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal a Superfund Site

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today named Brooklyn's Gowanus Canal a Superfund site, putting the waterway on the list of the nation's most polluted waste areas and paving the way for a years-long cleanup process that could upend city officals' plans to redevelop the neighborhood.

24gowanus_600.jpgBrooklyn's Gowanus Canal, now a federal Superfund site. (Photo: NYT)

In a statement on the Superfund designation, the EPA noted that contamination was found along the entire length of the 1.8-mile canal, which runs through the Carroll Gardens and Red Hook areas of Brooklyn. Among the toxic materials found in the Gowanus' sediment were polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and heavy metals.

“After conducting our own evaluations and consulting extensively with
the many people who have expressed interest in the future of the
Gowanus Canal and the surrounding area, we have determined that a
Superfund designation is the best path to a cleanup of this heavily
contaminated and long neglected urban waterway,” EPA regional administrator Judith Enck said in a statement.

“We plan to continue our work with the same
spirit of inclusion and involvement that has already been demonstrated,
and thank everyone for their focus on this pollution problem.”

The New York Times reported last year that New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg was opposing the prospect of  Superfund status for the canal, proposing instead to use federal and local funds for an alternative Gowanus cleanup plan that would not put new development and rezoning at risk.

The EPA's decision effectively puts federal officials in charge of restoring the canal to health, a task that can take more than a decade. Of the 1,620 local sites added to the EPA's Superfund roster over the past three decades, 341 sites have been removed following successful cleanups.

Two op-eds published last spring in the Gotham Gazette offer a point-counterpoint debate on what the Gowanus designation might mean for local residents. The EPA also announced a public meeting on the Gowanus site, to be held this Thursday, March 4th, from 7 pm to 9 pm at P.S. 58, located at 330 Smith Street in Brooklyn.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog USA

Talking Headways Podcast: IrrePLACEable

Kevin Kelley on his book Irreplaceable: How to Create Extraordinary Places that Bring People Together, and the future of downtowns.

July 18, 2024

This Heat Wave is a Car Dependency Problem

Our quickly warming planet has a unique impact on people who don't or can't drive — and we need policy action to protect their health.

July 18, 2024

A Hillbilly Elegy for Thursday’s Headlines

Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance, the Republican nominee for vice president, supports more federal subsidies for giant, deadly, gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs.

July 18, 2024

We Need to Stop Killing People On Our Roads; a New ‘Bikes Belong’ Campaign Could Help

A ground-breaking campaign in the 90s helped deliver the federal money America needed to fund active transportation infrastructure. Is it time to re-laucnch it?

July 18, 2024

Encouraging Seniors to Use Active and Public Transportation

Using - and encouraging the use of - active and multimodal transport can greatly enhance people's lives, especially seniors.

July 17, 2024
See all posts