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Gowanus Canal Pollution Enforcement

Pollution on the Gowanus

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On September 16, 2009 Riverkeeper announced the beginning of an enforcement campaign targeted at environmental law breakers on the highly polluted Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, New York. In the first wave of enforcement actions targeted at Canal polluters, Riverkeeper filed Notices of Intent to Sue against:

  • 6th Street Iron and Metal, a scrap yard, for dumping metal, and debris into the Canal.
  • Ferrara Brothers Building Materials Corp, a cement plant discharging liquid cement and stone into the Canal.
  • 107 Sixth Street LLC and 36-2nd-J Corp., for operating an open dump and filling the Canal from a parking lot on their property.
  • Riverkeeper also issued a warning letter to the NYC Department of Transportation after documenting a turbid plume of water coming from a stone barge at the DOT Asphalt Plant on Gowanus Bay.

These enforcement actions allege violations of the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).

Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal has suffered from over 150 years of virtually unregulated industrial use, and as a result is one of the most heavily contaminated waterbodies in the nation. For decades the canal served as a dumping site for industrial waste, raw sewage, and other pollution. The Canal is currently being considered by the Environmental Protection Agency for designation as a federal Superfund site, a proposal which Riverkeeper strongly supports.

In addition to the actions announced today, Riverkeeper’s efforts on the Gowanus Canal include regular boat patrols, water quality testing of the Canal, and a partnership with the Kings County District Attorney, the New York City Department of Small Business Services Dockmaster Unit, and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) aimed at coordinating surveillance and enforcement efforts on the Gowanus Canal, Newtown Creek, and other New York City waterways. This is part of a larger law enforcement effort which also includes the United States Coast Guard, the United States Park Service, New York City Parks Department, New York City Department of Environmental Protection, NYPD Harbor Unit, and others.

The Notices of Intent to Sue (NOIS), which Riverkeeper served on September 15, are the first step in initiating a citizen suit under the CWA and RCRA. During the required 60-day waiting period, New York State is given the opportunity to step in and file their own enforcement case and the polluter is given an opportunity to halt all violations. Following the waiting period Riverkeeper will file a case in federal court if violations persist and the state has not initiated its own enforcement actions.

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