Friday, March 04, 2011

Remedial Investigation of Gowanus Canal Identifies Widespread Contamination, Health and Ecological Problems

Looking south along Gowanus Canal from Gowanus...Image via WikipediaOn February 2, 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a press release regarding the results of the remedial investigation of the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, New York.  This investigation confirmed the widespread presence of more than a dozen contaminants, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and various metals, including mercury, lead and copper, at high levels in the sediment in the Gowanus Canal. PAHs and metals were also found in the canal water. PAHs are a group of chemicals that are formed during the incomplete burning of coal, oil, gas, wood, garbage, or other organic substances. PCBs were used as coolants and lubricants in transformers, capacitors, and other electrical equipment. PCBs are suspected carcinogens and can have neurological effects. PAHs are also suspected carcinogens.  The investigation also identified characteristics of the canal that will influence future plans for a cleanup.  A companion human and ecological risk assessment found that exposure to the contaminants in the canal poses threats to people’s health and the environment.


“The findings of the investigation of the Gowanus Canal confirmed that contamination of the urban waterway is widespread and may threaten people’s health, particularly if they eat fish or crabs from the canal or have repeated contact with the canal water or sediment,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck. “The next step is the review of options for cleaning up the Gowanus, so we can move ahead with a full-scale cleanup of the canal that will result in a revitalized urban waterway.”
Based on the results of the investigation and the human and ecological risk assessment, EPA will commence work on a study that will outline all of the options for addressing contamination in the Gowanus Canal.  This study, called a feasibility study, will take place over the coming months.  It is anticipated that a draft feasibility report containing an assessment of all options will be completed by the end of this year.  
During the investigation, EPA collected and analyzed more than 500 samples of sediment from the Gowanus Canal and more than 80 water samples for the presence of various contaminants. EPA also collected more than 200 fish, including striped bass, eel, white perch and blue crab, to analyze their tissue for contaminants. Air samples were collected at street level and at heights at which people would breathe while boating on the canal.
For more nformation visit EPA's website at: http://www.epa.gov/region02/superfund/npl/gowanus/

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