You can smell it long before you can actually see the infamous waterway, which is only 100 feet wide and 1.8 miles long but has a reputation that far outweighs its relative size. But how dangerous is the canal? Should you be concerned about your child’s health if you live, play or shop nearby? And what does the Gowanus superfund clean-up of the canal mean for you?
The Gowanus superfund clean-up, long talked about, has finally begun its earliest stages this fall. There was a town hall meeting earlier this month to keep residents up to date of what they can expect. Here’s a full breakdown of the meeting in case you missed it. The upcoming major clean-up will be broken into four sections, beginning at the top of the canal and progressing into the harbor. The first section is hoped to be completed in 2022, with the entire project optimistically taking 10 years.
So how dangerous is the canal currently? Well that terrible odor? It turns out it’s not likely to make you actually sick, as the New York State Department of Health has reported. So living nearby, breathing the same air, even canoeing on the canal are all sanctioned. What’s not a good idea is actually drinking the water, or for children, pregnant women or older people to eat fish from the canal. That seems like a no-brainer, however, there was an unpleasant story reported at the town meeting of an EPA worker being told by some people fishing the canal that they sold their catches to nearby restaurants! So as always, only eat fish when you feel confident in the source. What’s more concerning is another situation like Superstorm Sandy. That caused massive flooding throughout the city, including in Gowanus and nearby neighborhoods, and of course the water that was flooding was contaminated by that sludge at the bottom of the canal. Until the clean-up is fully complete, that’s a risk that will continue to plague Gowanus anytime there is a major flooding event, however, looking into the future, things are finally looking up for the Gowanus Canal.
Photo by Kayla Gibson