The federal government is rolling forward with plans to install a massive sewage tank beneath a beloved park and pool as part of its clean-up of the fetid Gowanus Canal, closing the play space for years, unless the city comes up with a better idea.
Representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency, which is overseeing the Superfund clean-up, said on Wednesday night that they will build the underground tank beneath the Thomas Greene Playground and adjoining “Double-D” pool unless city leaders propose another viable site before next August.
“The city can recommend other locations if they think they are better locations, so we’re not locked into those locations,” Superfund project manager Christos Tsiamis said at a community meeting. “But within nine months, we will have to know where those tanks are going to go so we can start the design.”
The planned tank is one of two $78 million underground containers meant to catch sewage that wells up in the area’s antiquated sewer system when it rains and keep the muck from spilling into the polluted waterway. The feds added the tanks to the plan, which originally called for just scraping the toxic crud off the bottom of the canal, after researchers found cancer-causing chemicals in sewage runoff and determined that it would be pointless to clean the channel one way and have it continue to flood with a mixture of toilet water, gasoline, and coal tar during hard rains.
One tank will hold four-million gallons of the stuff and the other eight, though the environmental agency has not said which will go where. The second tank is slated for a canal-side, city-owned lot on Fifth Street at Second Avenue that is used to store road salt and is used by the Gowanus Conservancy to garden.
The city is on the hook for a large chunk of the federally-mandated, $506-million clean-up and has fought the Superfund designation every step of the way, saying that the plan, and especially the tanks, are unnecessary and too expensive.
Park partisans have vowed to fight the placement of the tanks in their playground, unsatisfied by the feds’ promise to provide a temporary replacement rec area during the years-long construction process.
The pool’s future is threatened on another front because it sits directly above a plot of contaminated land where the former Fulton Manufactured Gas Plant operated from 1879 to 1929. The state may require energy giant National Grid to clean up the polluted land, which could also require major backhoe action.
Nor is this the first time residents have circled the wagons around Double-D. Back in 2010, the city planned to close the pool due to budget cuts, but opposition from residents and politicians, including Borough President Markowitz, kept it open.