Toxic Art: Sludge from the Gowanus Canal Enshrined in Brooklyn Gallery

by , 04/25/11
filed under: Art NYC,Brooklyn

gowanus canal, water management, epa superfund site, brooklyn superfund site, toxic mud

A lot is going on with the Gowanus Canal these days. Since being declared a Superfund Site by the Environmental Protection Agency last year, the city has begun putting forth its own efforts to help contribute to the clean up. One recent proposal emphasizes using plant life to help capture stormwater runoff before it enters into the canal, a problem that has worsened the pollution in the area. But the EPA’s role in the clean-up is strictly focused on the muck at the bottom of the canal, which is heavily contaminated with industrial waste. The toxic mud will eventually be removed, but a sample of it will remain in Brooklyn forever: the EPA has donated a jar of the chemical-filled sludge to Proteus Gowanus, a local gallery dedicated to collecting artifacts relating to the Gowanus Canal and surrounding neighborhood.

gowanus canal, water management, epa superfund site, brooklyn superfund site, toxic mud

Proteus Gowanus is an interdisciplinary gallery and reading room dedicated to deepening the community’s connection and sense of place. The gallery is more than happy to become the new owner of a sample of contaminated canal sediment. The EPA donated a sample from the $500-million clean-up project, which was collected near Sackett Street, close to the former Fulton Manufacture Gas Plant – a plant identified as one of three major contributors of the toxic coal tar that lines the bottom of the canal. Proteus Gowanus will use the toxic samples to help tell the story of the Gowanus Canal and its clean-up to future generations. The sample will be preserved and displayed at the Hall of the Gowanus exhibit.

This isn’t the first time that the canal’s mud has lead to creative inspiration. Last year, we reported that the contaminated sediment could be turned into glass for construction projects or sculptures. Considering that the EPA currently has no idea what they’ll do with the toxic sludge once its removed, creative reuse of the mud could take on a more important role in the canal’s clean-up.

Via Brooklyn Paper