Thursday, April 30, 2009

Local Groups Organizing To Support Canal Cleanup

Signs are sprouting up in the neighborhood and now there is a website as well, calling on the EPA, local officials and residents to support the Superfund designation of the Gowanus Canal.

As I've stated before: either the canal qualifies or it doesn't. If it does, we can't pretend that it doesn't and try to shove the genie back in the bottle. Like it or not (and there certainly has been some organized opposition to designation) the state DEC completely changed the equation when they requested Superfund designation for the canal. We need to listen to what the scientific experts have to say and then clean up the canal to the fullest extent possible. From what I've heard, bringing in the EPA is the most effective way to make this happen.

I am hopeful that this administration will put federal dollars into cleaning up polluted sites as a stimulus measure and as good environmental policy. $600 million has already been committed to the Superfund, and I will wager there is more to come.

Whatever happens, cleaning up the canal is long past due. In addition to remediating the site, we need to make some serious investments in sewer infrastructure to eliminate the CSO issue going forward. New York is an old city, and much of our sewer infrastructure predates modern standards (like separate sanitary and storm sewers). It's past time that the Federal government committed additional resources to upgrading these antiquated sewers that dump raw feces into our waterways every time it rains.

The EPA has been giving NYC DEP a pass on CSO discharges under a consent decree established several years ago. It's time to stop giving us a pass and give us the resources to clean up our waste. The good news is, the Obama administration actually believes in governing, providing basic services, and cleaning up the environment . . . so fixing our sewage problem is a distinct possibility.

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