EPA gets an earful at Red Hook Gowanus meeting
by Ricky Casiano
Feb 20, 2013 | 1409 views | 4 4 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Red Hooks residents overwhelmingly opposed the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposal on how best to move forward with the Superfund cleanup of the Gowanus Canal at a public meeting last Wednesday.

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: gowanus-canalcomments.region2@epa.gov.

Comments
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EPA con job
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March 03, 2013
Most folks in Red Hook were left out of the process. We would prefer not to have our waterfront filled in with toxic sludge and given to a Concrete plant/toxic dumper. Lets clean this part like the rest of the canal . THis sludge treatment plant is next to ball fields and one of NYC's largest housing plants. It's a terrible spot for toxic sludge remediation. The EPA project manager (Scientist) was very vague in answering questions at the meeting in Red Hook. I'm curious as to what his relationship is with Quadrazzi. Something doesn't seem right.
who is the con?
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March 06, 2013
Red Hook was never "left out of the process".

There is a Red Hook activist who is a Community Board Member. He also site on the Environmental sub-committee of CB6 where the Superfund cleanup surely must have been discussed--if that committee is worth anything. And not only does CB6 have a representative on the EPA CAG group, so does the Red Hook houses.

So lets be clear, OPTING OUT of participation is not the same thing as being left out.

Given that there are many well financed entities who may want to prevent this cleanup; the real question is who is paying for the EPA slander program?

Better reporting pls
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February 23, 2013
That was not the third meeting on this! There have been years of meetings about the Gowanus Superfund project. There were even 2 meetings in Red Hook last year with the EPA! Red Hook residents are entitled to their opinions, but many of them are uninformed opinions since they have not followed this multi-year process. They need better reporting to help them better understand the science, the options, the limits on the proposed CDF, and maybe even the presentation since Christos is hard to understand because of his accent and delivery (he gives lots of qualified answers like an responsible scientist, but that does not make for short answers!)
Red Hook second look
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February 26, 2013
Thank you Ricky Casiano for accurate reporting. What wasn't obvious to everyone was that civic business haters wanting to transform the neighborhood to residential, played a trick on the community deceiving folks into thinking that toxic waste was being buried instead of remeidated dredge for beneficial reuse.

Since the meeting, the public is now seeking to learn more about the benefits and how they can take advantage of the project. There's a lot to be said about saving the tax payers $37 million dollars. It's time the medieval opposition to progress ends and a more responsible proactive approach to saving our environment is persued - thanks to the EPA, Red Hook has a great opportunity in front of it. Hopefully intelligence will prevail.