Investigation into the Severity of Pollution at Gowanus Canal

Environmental Law


In February, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (“USEPA”) released the results of a year-long investigation into the severity of contamination at the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, New York. The Brooklyn waterway was named a Superfund Site in 2010. The USEPA study confirmed the severe extent of pollution at the Gowanus Canal, which poses a significant threat to public health, especially to those who eat fish from the Canal or have repeated contact with its water and sediments.

Cleanup of the Canal will begin in 2015 and last approximately 10 years. The cleanup cost is estimated at $300 million to $500 million and will be paid by the polluters. Oil refineries, chemical plants, tanneries, manufactured gas plants, and other heavy industry that have lined the banks of the Gowanus Canal contributed more than a dozen contaminants, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and various metals, including mercury, lead, and copper. Additionally, uncontrolled discharges of sewage and stormwater continue to contaminate the Canal.

The next step in the future cleanup of the Gowanus Canal is USEPA’s commencement of a feasibility study. This investigation will help the USEPA assess the options for addressing the contamination in the Canal. USEPA continues to monitor the Canal, sampling groundwater and soil along the banks to determine other possible sources of contamination from properties abutting the canal. The USEPA presented its findings of the remedial investigation on February 23, 2011, in Brooklyn.

For more information on the Gowanus Canal Superfund Site and other issues concerning land and water contamination, please contact Miriam Villani or Jason Kaplan.

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