Gowanus Canal fails odor test, stinks
It’s official: The Gowanus Canal stinks.
The developer who wants to build housing along the polluted waterway conceded in papers submitted to the city that the canal smells – and a planned cleanup might not get rid of the foul odor.
Environmental tests done for condo developer Toll Brothers found levels of hydrogen sulfide in the canal high enough to create a “nuisance.”
“These levels would constitute a potential significant odor impact,” consulting firm AKRF wrote in a January Environmental Impact Statement.
The source of the smell is believed to be raw sewage that overflows into the canal when it rains heavily, as well as dirty sediments at the bottom of the waterway, according to the consultants.
Toll Brothers officials have said they would abandon plans to build 460 condos and middle-income townhouse units on the banks of the canal if it is designated a federal Superfund site.
Toll Brothers planned to spend $3.5 million to clean up the canal along the two-block site slated for the housing. The city has pledged $175 million to rebuild a flushing tunnel and a pumping station to improve water quality and to dredge a portion of the canal.
But according to the EIS, those plans may not be enough to get rid of the smell.
It says that “it is possible that the identified odor impacts could potentially be reduced” by the city’s improvements, slated to be finished in 2013.
But “in the event that such measures are ineffective, [hydrogen sulfide] levels at the site could remain above 10 parts per billion … thereby constituting an unmitigated unavoidable adverse impact.”
Toll Brothers spokesman David Von Spreckelsen said the developer was confident the city’s work will sufficiently reduce the odor.
“We believe that with the city’s and state’s remediation program, it will be within acceptable levels,” he said.
Von Sprecklesen said the “stigma” attached to the Superfund program would make it impossible to finance the project or sell the condos.
But Riverkeeper attorney Josh Verleun said, “I would think that as a developer you would have a difficult time selling luxury condos when it’s going to smell like sewage all the time.
BY Erin Durkin