Inside the auditorium of Red Hook’s P.S. 15 on Feb. 13, residents raised numerous health concerns they had with the agency’s plans to process some of the contaminated sediment from the Gownaus Canal in Red Hook, while many others simply asked, “what are the benefits to the community?”
“I think you talk too much,” an upset Chris Morson of Red Hook told EPA project manager Christos Tsiamis. “Why leave it [sediment] here when you can get rid of it? I think it’s all bullsh*t.”
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) back in December proposed its plans to clean up the Gowanus Canal Superfund site. The plan calls for removing some of the contaminated sediment from the bottom of the canal and capping the dredged areas in a complicated, expensive project that is expected to last at least 10 years.
This was the third public meeting EPA on the Gowanus cleanup plans. The meetings are meant to inform the public, as well as solicit community input.
EPA project manager Christos Tsiamis took the brunt of the heat from the community as he struggled to defend the proposal.
“I understand I talk too much,” said Tsiamis, who has worked on the Gowanus plans for three years. “I am trying to give the information so you can make an informed decision. We are here to listen, not to push anything on you.”
Tsiamis added the project is completely safe because the clay and rock material used is not toxic as many believe, and all of the processing of the sediment would be done in a controlled environment that will be overseen by the EPA for the lifetime of the site.
In addition, keeping the sediment near the site would save an estimated $37 million in expenses for the project, according to officials. The project altogether costs a whopping half a billion dollars, which would be financed partly by the city and National Grid, two parties deemed responsible for the pollution.
Separately, Tsiamis mentioned the project could also bring much-needed jobs to the community, though how many jobs and who would get those jobs was not clear.
Still, the community was not satisfied and many expressed their displeasure with the plans. Residents complained they wanted more information about the project, and still felt there was no real benefit to the community.
“It seems like in Red Hook everyone wants to dump on us and we are tired of it,” said Jean, who has lived in Red Hook for 42 years. “I think it should go. Keep your jobs. We don’t want it.”
Yet some residents defended the EPA, saying the animosity was misplaced. Many in Red Hook were still suffering from the effects of super storm Sandy back in Oct. 29.
“I think it [the plan] deserves a try,” said Bette Stoltz of Prospect Heights, who has worked in Red Hook for 11 years. “This would bring blue-collar jobs here and we need them.”
The EPA urged the public to keep the comments coming. The public will be allowed to voice their concerns on the proposals online or by mail through April 27. Residents may email their comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org.