The EPA announced this week the addition of 10 hazardous waste sites to the National Priorities List (NPL) of Superfund sites. One of the sites added to the NPL is the super-famous and now Superfunded Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, New York. The inner-city canal, once home to booming industry is now classified as one of the most toxic waterways in the country. Amidst a scuffle between Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to clean-up the waterway without the Superfund stamp, developers’ desire for it to be left alone, and activists who want to return it to its natural state, the national government swept in to save it.
The Gowanus Canal was built in the 19th century to link industry along its banks to New York Harbor. For years factories along its banks dumped raw sewage, chemicals and garbage into the water without reprimand. The canal is home to no known wildlife — it’s oxygen levels actually can’t support life, although it does boast such residents as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, heavy metals, pesticides, PCBs, and volatile organic contaminants. The canal is known to most New Yorkers as a smelly toxic mess, though in recent years activists have been trying to give it a better name.