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National Grid, the gas company already committed to cleaning land abutting the heavily polluted Gowanus Canal, may soon be compelled to get its feet wet.
And the utility giant seems okay with that.
“We will work cooperatively with the parties under whatever regulatory process in cleaning up the canal,” said company spokesperson Karen Young.
Three weeks ago, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed the canal for inclusion in the federal Superfund program, which investigates and cleans up the hazardous waste sites that pose risks to human health or the environment. The program forces those responsible for the pollution to clean it up.
Through corporate genealogy, National Grid is linked to Brooklyn Union Gas, which operated three manufactured gas plants along the canal’s edge. The plants polluted the soil with coal tars and other hazardous materials, which over time leached into the 1.8−mile waterway. National Grid is already working with the state Department of Environmental Conservation to clean up Public Place, a large tract near the canal that could one day be home to Gowanus Green, a housing and parks project. The company is working with the DEC and the city, the current owner of the Public Place, to develop a remedial design for the site.
Young inferred that National Grid would not be alone in any potential clean−up. She noted that there have been many different industries along the canal over the years, including petrochemical and chemical operations and the city of New York’s combined sewer outflows and sewage treatment facilities, as well as the three former manufactured gas plant sites for which National Grid has responsibility.
She said that none of the sites have been owned by National Grid or its predecessors for many years. The cost for the work has not been finalized. About 70 percent of Superfund sites are being cleaned up by the originators of the contamination, according to the EPA.
“We look forward to a discussion with the EPA on how its plans will impact the work that we have underway on the upland properties,” Young said.
EPA spokesperson John Senn said representatives from EPA and National Grid have already discussed “the Superfund listing process via phone.” The proposed listing has been controversial, with those against it, like the Bloomberg administration, arguing that the designation could stifle future development and hinder already ongoing clean−up projects. Supporters note the canal is one of the most polluted waterways in the entire nation. Its thorough cleansing, advocates argue, should be a priority before development. Signs depicting a jolly whale floating atop text that reads “Gowanus Canal: Superfund Me!” have recently started to appear in windows near the fetid waterway.
The proposed Superfund designation is subject to a 60−day public review, which is already underway. For information, go to regulations.gov, and use the keyword ‘gowanus.’
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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