EPA Adds Gowanus Canal to Superfund List

Bloomberg opposed designation, said federal program too slow

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The Gowanus Canal is now a Superfund site.

    A Brooklyn canal that was once so polluted locals called it "The Lavender Lake'' has become the nation's newest Superfund site.

            The Environmental Protection Agency announced Tuesday that it had placed the Gowanus Canal in the federal cleanup program, which could take 10 to 12 years.
           
    The agency made the designation over the objections of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who criticized the federal program as too slow. He also worried the Superfund label would scare away developers. The Bloomberg administration has fought the label since it was first proposed last April, arguing its clean-up program, which takes voluntary contributions from polluters and gets some cash from Congress, was a more effective option.
           
    The EPA said the designation was "the best path to a cleanup.'' It allows the government to go after polluters and force them to pay for the waterway's restoration. Plus, the agency didn't think the city would be able to come up with the money to complete the cleanup.

    "In the, end there was no question that federal Superfund was the appropriate route to take," EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck told the Daily News. "We know how to get this cleanup done. ... We all now have to roll up our sleeves, get to the work of the day, and get this remediation to occur."
           
    A Bloomberg spokesman said the administration was disappointed, but committed to working with the EPA.

    The canal was built in the 19th century to allow industrial access into Gowanus Bay. After its completion in the 1860s, the canal became a busy industrial waterway, home to heavy industries, including manufactured gas plants, coal yards, concrete-mixing facilities, tanneries, chemical plants, and oil refineries.  It also received untreated industrial wastes, raw sewage and runoff.