Thursday, November 11, 2010

Feds Identify Gowanus Canal “Hot Spots” Of Intense Contamination

The Gowanus Canal remains a mess — and three former gas plants are the main villain. Coal tar continues to migrate into the waterway producing cancer-causing vapors. (Photo: Kate Emerson/ The Brooklyn Paper)


Federal officials have identified three “hot spots” of intense contamination — and the source of cancer-causing toxic vapors — along the polluted Gowanus Canal, according to the Brooklyn Paper.

The officials remained mum last week about what risks the gunk poses to humans and animals — but they did reveal that an astonishing 90 percent of pollutants in the canal originate from just three sites along the 1.8-mile waterway.

he terrible trio mirrors locations where gas plants once stood: Metropolitan Works, at 12th Street and the canal; Fulton Municipal Works, at Degraw Street and Third Avenue; and Citizens Gas Company, at Smith and Fifth streets.

From the 1860s to the late 1950s, the companies literally helped fuel the Industrial Revolution — but in the process, generated a by-product called coal tar, a substance containing an array of hazardous compounds.

The foul tar has since seeped deep underground, where it continues to migrate into the fetid waterway, its presence confirmed by an oily surface sheen. The tar can also be gasified, producing cancer-causing vapors.

The agency is sifting through a mountain of data it collected since the canal was named a Superfund site last March, a recognition of its status as one of the nation’s most polluted waterways. Once that work is completed, said Walter Mugdan, a regional director with the Environmental Protection Agency, officials will “determine what to do to clean it” — a process that will take 10 to 12 years, and cost $500 million.

Read More:

The Brooklyn Paper - November 8, 2010 - By Gary Buiso

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