The long-awaited cleanup of the Gowanus Canal officially has a start date. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday issued an administrative order requiring the start of the first phase of the project, 10 years after the agency declared it a Superfund site. Expected to begin in September and take 30 months to complete, the $125 million project covers the cleanup of the upper canal and the 1st Street turning basin and involves “full-scale dredging,” according to the agency.
Department of Environmental Protection
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.
In gross news for the day, the New York Times ran a story highlighting the city’s Department of Environmental Protection “Wait …” campaign, which asks residents in parts of Brooklyn and Queens to “Wait…to use water during a heavy rainstorm.” Unbeknownst to many, rainwater runoff and household sewage flow in the same underground pipes. When there is a lot of rain, the overflow runs off into nearby rivers, bays, and creeks instead of to the intended water treatment plant destinations. The four things the site suggests you wait on are: laundry, shower, wash dishes, and/or flush the toilet.
While you may have never heard of the term “bioswale,” you have probably seen these curbside gardens throughout the city. A bioswale, or rain garden, is a pit dug into the sidewalk that’s been filled with rocky soil and shrubbery. These gardens absorb polluted stormwater and prevent runoff that could seep into waterways through the sewer system. Despite being an effective solution to water pollution, the New York Times reports that some city residents are crying out against find bioswales, calling them unattractive, messy, and hotbeds for trash and pests.
What’s a bioswale? (We know that’s what you’re saying to yourself.) It’s a curbside garden built to absorb stormwater. The city currently has about 255 of them, but will be installing an additional 2,000 throughout Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx to prepare for the possibility of more intense storms in the future. Not only will the bioswales absorb an estimated 200 million gallons of stormwater each year, but they’ll therefore mitigate pollution in the Bronx River, Flushing Bay, Gowanus Canal, Jamaica Bay and Newtown Creek.