Thursday, February 3, 2011

Go, go, Gowanus -- or not

Maybe you've heard -- the Gowanus Canal is polluted? Here's solid proof, for those who've considered taking a swim there once (if?) summer rolls around.

The Environmental Protection Agency released results of its year-long study of the canal yesterday, concluding the 150-year-old waterway is a public health threat. For more than a century, numerous manufacturing, gas and chemical companies have dumped all kinds of waste into the canal, which for most of its life never emptied into any major body of water, resulting in insanely toxic levels of mercury, lead, copper, PCBs, human waste, and more. Meanwhile, 300 million gallons of sewage and waste continue to flow in each year. Ugh.

Last year the federal government declared the canal a SuperFund site, a status the city and some local residents opposed, though most are now on board. Officials estimate it'll take about 10 years to clean -- who'll pay? The EPA plans to get some of the original polluting companies that still exist today to pony up for much of the cleanup.

Meanwhile, stay out of the water. The water poses a health risk to those who eat any fish or crabs from the canal or those who frequently touch the sediment, says EPA offcials. Sightseeing, anyone?

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