Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn was 1 of 10 Superfund sites announced March 2 by the Environmental Protection Agency, ending a battle between New York and the federal government over who should clean up the site. According to a March 2 article in the New York Times, “The agency estimates that the project will last 10 to 12 years and cost $300 million to $500 million. The city estimated that its approach would take nine years.” The city, however, had opted for voluntary payments from polluters, and the EPA felt that the city’s funding was not guaranteed, since it depended on funds Congress had not yet allocated.

I’m sure that $300 to $500 will pay for lots of contractors and subcontractors and will probably help the local economy in some way. But others worry that the canal’s new status will stifle development along its banks.

One developer, Toll Brothers, said it would scrap its plan for a $250 million project with about 450 housing units and retailing space on three acres by the canal. “We wouldn’t be able to obtain financing to build, and we’d have difficulties obtaining insurance,” said David Von Spreckelsen, a senior vice president with the company, citing factors like uncertainty on how long the cleanup would take.

But Gowanus Green, a $300 million project for 774 units of new housing in nine buildings as well as retailing and community facilities, mostly financed by the city, is going forward.

“We’re in full support of the project, and we’ll work with the E.P.A.,” said Aaron Koffman, a spokesman for the Hudson Companies, one of the companies in the project’s consortium. (from “Gowanus Canal Gets Superfund Status” by Mireya Navarro, March 2, 2010)

Perhaps this is naive or shortsighted of me, but it seems that the cleanup should be well underway before any new development begins. And if the entire canal will be dredged, the people in charge of dredging should pay attention to what’s being done in California to measure whether dredging will stir up old pollution.

Here is a list of other Superfund sites designated in March 2010.

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