Beauty and toxins, industry and wildlife mix in Newtown Creek, along the Gowanus Canal and near to old Wolff-Alport Chemical Company on the Brooklyn-Queens border.
In the past five years, the federal Environmental Protection Agency has designated three sites in New York City to be part of the Superfund program, which goes after past polluters for financial penalties that it then employs to offset the massive cost of cleaning up decades-old industrial toxins.
One site is on the northern border of Brooklyn with Queens at Newtown Creek, tainted largely by oil. Another is the Gowanus Canal, whose bottom is coated with a sludge referred to as "black mayonnaise." The newest is the former Wolff-Alport Chemical Company on the Ridgewood-Bushwick border, a quiet spot adjacent to a cemetery where former owners had a habit of flushing radioactive material into the sewer.
All three sites are highly contaminated. But as a team reporting effort by Gothamist and City Limits' Emma Turetsky reveals, they also happen to sit in neighborhoods that are either deep into or on the verge of a wave of development, gentrification and all the complex impacts those forces will deliver.
Below you'll find key background info and archived articles on the sites and the issues at play there:
The Gowanus Canal
You can see the entire EPA case file on the Canal here, including its recent administrative order to the city related to some of the clean-up planning.
See the EPA case history here. And to learn more about the combined sewage overflow or CSO problem—a big factor in the ickiness of both the creek and the Gowanus, our 2007 investigation may provide background.
We first wrote about this site back in 2012 as part of a larger look at Brooklyn's brownfields. Last December, the EPA decided Wolff-Alport would joint Newtown and Gowanus as a Superfund site. The site's history and toxicity are detailed in the federal documents supporting the Superfund designation.