When National Grid purchased a number of companies lining the Gowanus canal, they probably didn’t realize those companies would be blamed for more than 90 percent of the pollution in the canal.
However, federal officials have named three main culprits responsible for the toxic sludge that now lines the canal floor. The former sites of three gas companies are being blamed for more than 90 percent of the toxic pollution in the Gowanus: Metropolitan Works at 12th Street; Fulton Municipal Works at Degraw Street; and Citizens Gas Company on Fifth Street.
The three gas companies helped fuel New York’s industrial growth and production from the beginning of the American Civil War to the end of the Korean War. However, progress wasn’t the only by-product of these gas companies. They also produced boatloads of highly toxic coal tar that has seeped into the waterway from floor to surface.
The Feds also reported concerns surrounding the ability of the coal tar to gasify and produce toxic vapors.
The EPA is setting up for the long haul at the Gowanus, scheduling more testing and the formulation of a ten to twelve year plan for the first stage of the clean up alone.
“Not in our lifetime” Walter Mugdan, of the Superfund Program for the US Department of Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 2, stated in reply to a question asking when the Gowanus Canal will be swimable and fishable again.