NEW YORK (AP) — The Superfund cleanup of one of the nation's most polluted waterways — New York City's Gowanus Canal — will begin in about three years with dredging of the sewage and chemical sludge, federal officials announced Monday.
The highly contaminated waterway won't be safe for swimming or fishing but could someday be suitable for boating, officials said.
"More than 150 of industrial waste, storm water runoff and sewer overflow turned the Gowanus Canal into one of the most extensively contaminated water bodies in the nation," said Judith Enck, the Environmental Protection Agency regional administrator said as she discussed the agency's final cleanup plan while standing next to the Brooklyn canal.
The highly contaminated sediment at the bottom of the canal includes coolant and lubricant residues that medical experts say can cause cancer. It will be transported to as yet undetermined locations far from populated communities.
Enck noted that it could be a decade before the partial cleanup is completed at a cost of an estimated half a billion dollars.
The Gowanus was built in 1848, quickly becoming one of the country's busiest industrial waterways, flanked by gas and coal companies, chemical and cement manufacturers, plus paint and ink factories, machine shops and tanneries — all discharging into the canal.
According to an EPA report, pollutants include polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAHs and metals including barium, cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, nickel and silver that contribute to "unacceptable ecological and human health risks."
The government will press to identify "numerous parties that are potentially responsible for the contamination" so they can contribute to cleanup costs, which could increase if canal walls give way during dredging.
In addition to the industrial waste, the waterway is repeatedly polluted by sewage and street rainwater overflow that the city's treatment plants cannot process.
The cleanup includes plans to diminish new pollution — by building two tanks that will capture excess storm water.
It'll take about three years to set up the work after testing and analysis.