EPA: Canal cleanup is about to run out of money — and Trump isn’t coughing it up!

Scrub-a-dub: The long-awaited Gowanus Canal cleanup began last year, but could slow to a crawl if the Feds don't cough up some cash soon, officials say.
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The Trump Administration is a threat to the federal cleanup of the Gowanus Canal after all, environmental honchos now say.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency’s funds for running the noxious waterway’s detox will dry up by April 18, and the scrub could slow to a crawl for years if Washington doesn’t loosen its purse strings and cough up some cash soon, the man in charge of the cleanse told a community meeting on Tuesday.

“There’s need of money and without that money nothing can be done, that is the truth,” said project manager Christos Tsiamis at a monthly meeting of the Gowanus Canal Community Advisory Group. “We have made a request for additional funds to continue oversight and the silence has been deafening. We haven’t heard anything yet.”

The news stands in stark contrast to statements from an agency’s official in January that the cleanup will not be jeopardized by President Trump’s election, but bolsters recent warnings by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman that Trump’s plan to cut $330 million from the agency’s Superfund program threatens to hold up the project.

The organizations responsible for befouling the waterway in the first place are supposed to foot the bill, but the money they’ve supplied so far has dwindled over the past year, according to the project’s lawyer Brian Carr — who told the room that he had been forbidden from attending the group’s meetings for the past year while the agency hashed out a settlement with the city.

The polluters have been paying contractors directly for their work but owe the Feds about $15 million, according to Carr. He is confident he can secure the dough from them in the next six to 12 months, but not quickly enough to cover costs after April.

“In the interim we’re not really in a particularly good position,” he said.

Tsiamis has asked the Feds for $400,000–$500,000 in the meantime, but said he hasn’t heard anything back.

With no money, the six-person team in charge of evaluating and approving the designs for the cleanup’s next phase — which includes installing giant sewage tanks next to the waterway — will be slashed to just one: Tsiamis. He is an expert in chemical engineering but still needs help with other subjects like structural engineering and general paper pushing.

“Without the funds to fund my team, the project is going to slow down significantly, there’s no other way,” he said. “Instead of taking six months, it will take two years or something like that to complete the design.”

Tsiamis still stands by his colleague’s previous statement that The Donald won’t compromise the project, since the polluters will ultimately cover the costs and it will eventually get done, even if it is delayed for now.

But he has already had several disagreements with the responsible parties about their plans for the cleanup, since they prefer to do things as cheaply as possible and he thinks it is important to pay for oversight to make sure the job gets done right.

Still, Tsiamis seemed to have changed his outlook somewhat by the end of the meeting, and said he is optimistic the president will come through despite his silence thus far, arguing that everybody in the White House knows about the project — including Trump’s son-in-law and right-hand man Jared Kushner, who owns land along the canal — and it would go along with the commander-in-chief’s plan to revitalize the country’s infrastructure.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018: Updated to clarify why Carr had been absent from previous meetings.
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Reasonable discourse

Joe from Gowanus says:
Tsiamis should

1. publish what the EPA has spent to date
2. update the $506M 2009 cost estimate
3. identify PRPs, and disclose if settlement has been reached

We have NO IDEA what the feds are doing or how they are spending our tax dollars. All we know is that 1 of 3 EPA $$ is spent on EPA management instead of the cleanup costs - what a waste!
March 29, 2017, 2:42 pm
reconsider scope from Gowanus says:
The EPA increased the cost of the cleanup by over $35m just because some loud informal group disinterested in the cleanup raised a big fuss over unsubstantiated concerns.

Perhaps in a time when "money doesn't grow on trees", we should give the option to clean the sludge at home in a more environmentally sound and beneficial way some reconsideration.

If the savings were $35m a few years ago, they're probably worth $45m to $50m today.
March 30, 2017, 7:29 am
More Reconsideration from Red Hook says:
Some years back there was a Red Hook option to stabilize the lowest level contaminants in the Red Hook portion of the canal (South of Hamilton Ave)using an active industrial site in Red Hook itself which would in turn increase economic waterfront development. They called it a CDF.

The savings at the time were 48 million dollars. Today it's probably worth around 1.5% percent at 75 million dollars.

Perhaps the EPA should reconsider such a plan so that this project doesn't get stalled or die completely.

Further, the adding of an industrial development component with long-term job creation may just stimulate president Trump's support.
July 4, 2018, 11:40 am

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