Millman Supports Superfund Designation for Gowanus Canal

July 17, 2009
Brooklyn Ė Assemblywoman Joan L. Millman issued the following statement regarding the possible designation of the Gowanus Canal as an EPA Superfund Site:

Statement from Assemblywoman Joan Millman Regarding the Designation of the Gowanus Canal as an EPA Superfund Site

I have reached the decision to support addition of the Gowanus Canal to the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL) after thorough review of proposed clean-up plans and discussions with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), New York City Office of Environmental Remediation, the Mayorís Office, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC), homeowners, businesses, and residents. While I support the designation, I do have concerns about the impact an NPL designation might have on the Public Place site and other planned developments along the canal. Nevertheless, the Gowanus Canal and surrounding land area has been polluted for too long and I welcome the EPAís comprehensive plan to create a safe, livable environment.

The EPA has assured me that the Gowanus Canal will be a top priority, and they will use the full weight of their authority to remediate the site comprehensively and expediently. Under federal law, the EPA is the only entity that can compel Potentially Responsible Parties (PRPs) to enter into legal agreements to pay their share of the environmental clean-up.

While I believe New York Cityís Alternative Plan has merit, its reliance upon scarce federal Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) funding to pay for the majority of the site remediation is unrealistic. The potential for delays is too great, as it will require the City to lobby for scarce federal funding. I do commend the City for providing the necessary funding for the work to rehabilitate the flushing tunnel and reduce the annual combined sewer overflow (CSO). The EPA and the DEC strongly believe, as I do, that this work should proceed as planned because it will augment anticipated Superfund remedial measures. In addition, this work will improve water quality in the canal and will provide much-needed relief to the problem of sewage back-up for homeowners in the immediate area.

I also urge the City to continue moving forward with the planned rezoning of the Gowanus Canal area. The EPA has made it clear that its proposed remediation for the area will be dependent upon the final use of the land. Land that is zoned for mixed or residential use will require higher levels of clean-up. For decades, the community has wanted the canal and surrounding land to be completely cleaned in order to provide housing, including senior and affordable housing, parkland and recreational opportunities. I also request the EPA work with the NYS DEC to ensure that all sites in the DEC Brownfields Program, particularly Public Place, are given the necessary approval and guidance to proceed with their scheduled clean-up.

The community that I represent deserves a return to the canalís pristine natural state, when it was called the Gowanus Creek. Then, Native Americans, followed by Dutch farmers, used the canal to hunt and fish. A successful clean-up of the Gowanus Canal will tie together communities, provide open space for a variety of recreational uses, and create a safer environment for all residents. There is much to be gained from doing this right, by ensuring the health and safety of all current and future residents, and by starting this complicated process today.