City’s Gowanus Canal cleanup plan gets squashed by Trump’s EPA

September 25, 2019

Photo by Danny NavarroFlickr cc

Since taking office, Donald Trump and his administration have been proposing cuts to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that would decrease funding for the cleanup of the Gowanus Canal. Declared a federal Superfund site in 2010, the Canal has a major issue with combined sewer overflow (CSO), which occurs when heavy rainfall overtaxes the sewer system and causes stormwater runoff and wastewater to empty into the waterway. As Brooklyn Eagle reports, the city’s proposal to mitigate this issue was to “replace two [CSO] retention tanks holding 8 and 4 million gallons with a 16 million-gallon CSO tunnel running beneath the upper portion of the canal.” However, in a letter obtained by the Eagle, Trump EPA appointee Pete Lopez said that they would instead install two large retention tanks along the Canal walls.

The retention tanks have long been part of the EPA’s larger cleanup plan for the site, but the NYC Department of Environmental Protection first came up with its idea for a tunnel underneath the waterway during the government shutdown earlier this year. They are implementing similar tunnels in Flushing Bay and Newtown Creek. As outlined in Bklyner in January, the DEP says the benefits to the tunnel include:

  • An additional four-gallon storage capacity
  • Less CSO runoff
  • Equal cost and timeframe
  • No above-ground property acquisition and fewer disruptions

The last point may be the most notable, as the city recently released its Gowanus rezoning plan, which includes the addition of more affordable housing, jobs, and community resources, along with a more resilient shoreline that can withstand larger developments.

However, Lopez said in the aforementioned letter to the city that after reviewing the tunnel proposal, the EPA determined that “the technical record does not support changing the current remedy approach.” He noted that by switching to the tunnel plan, it would take at least two more years in public review meetings and would cost $50 more than the tanks’ $1.2 billion price tag.

In response, Ted Timbers of the DEP told the Eagle, “President Trump’s EPA is at it again: ignoring science and facts when making significant decisions that impact New Yorkers’ lives. We’ve been clear that allowing the city to build a tunnel would provide 33 percent more storage capacity and reduce roadway flooding all with negligible cost and timeline impacts.”

Both proposals have a 2030 date for full completion.

[Via Brooklyn Eagle]


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