Brooklyn businesses may face lawsuit over dumping in Gowanus Canal
An environmental group is gearing up to sue three businesses it charged are polluting the Gowanus Canal – and warned the city to clean up its act, too.
Riverkeeper filed notices of intent to sue 6th Street Iron and Metal; Ferrara Brothers Building Materials Corp., and a parking lot owned by Jacob Marmurstein for violating the federal Clean Water Act.
“We are really putting a shot across the bow,” said Riverkeeper lawyer Josh Verleun. “It sends a message to people who might think, ‘Oh, it’s dirty, it’s contaminated, no one’s going to notice if I dump something off the back of my property.’ They’re going to think twice.”
The companies are along the banks of the canal stretching from Ninth to Hoyt Sts.
Verleun said the group’s patrol boats spotted a “towering pile of scrap” at 6th Street Iron and Metal, with everything from wrecked machinery to crushed car parts falling into the canal.
Ferrara Brothers was caught spewing liquid cement and stone into the canal, and construction debris, metal pipes, tires and garbage were dumped from the parking lot, he said.
Riverkeeper also sent a warning letter to the city Department of Transportation after investigators spotted a plume of dirty water coming from a barge docked in front of a DOT asphalt plant on Hamilton Ave.
“These types of things are illegal, and if nothing is done to fix it, we reserve the right to file a [lawsuit],” Verleun said.
DOT spokesman Monty Dean said, “The documentation is far from definitive about the source of the discharge, but we will look into the matter and take any appropriate measures with our contractors, who are required to comply with all laws, including environmental regulations,”
The notices to sue mean the businesses have 60 days to clean up their act before Riverkeeper takes them to court, where they could face penalties up to $37,500 for every day pollutants were dropped in the water.
The state or federal government could also bring charges.
An official at 6th Street Iron and Metal denied the charges.
“What they’re saying is off the wall, quite honestly. The Gowanus Canal has been contaminated for 150 years,” said employee Fred Johns. “It’s not an accurate representation.”
Marmurstein declined to comment. Ferrara Brothers CEO Joseph Ferrara did not return calls.
Riverkeeper’s enforcement campaign comes as the federal Environmental Protection Agency is considering making the canal a Superfund site. The EPA expects to make a decision by the end of the year.
BY Erin Durkin