By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Red Hook residents opposed to a controversial plan to use a location in Red Hook to process toxic sludge from the Gowanus Canal have started an online petition drive.
The petition, on the “No Toxic Red Hook” site, reads, “We are strongly opposed to the processing of contaminated sludge dredged from the Gowanus Canal Superfund Cleanup Site at a facility at the proposed location. The cost savings are negligible, and the Red Hook Ball Fields and Pool are used in public trust. The community does not want to create more land from this contaminated sludge adjacent to one of the most heavily used recreation areas in New York City.”
The petition goes on to say that children, residents of the Red Hook Houses, local athletes who use the ballfields, food vendors and others would be at risk.
The idea was proposed by John Quadrozzi, a concrete manufacturer and owner of the Gowanus Bay Terminal on Columbia Street (the aforementioned Red Hook site), last year. The sludge would be “de-watered, ” mixed into concrete, then dumped into the Gowanus Bay. This would create more land and extend the terminal into deeper waters, according to published reports.
John Quadrozzi Jr., emailing the Eagle, said, “Firstly to clarify, the EPA is not looking to do this with ALL the canal's dredge material, more specifically NOT the medium- to severely contaminated material, but rather only the Red Hook portion of the canal, south of Hamilton Avenue, that with the low-level contaminates.
Quadrozzi called the plan “a fantastic and responsible project, beneficially reusing remediated/recycled dredge (what which plagued the neighborhood for over 100 years), for a maritime economic development use.”
John McGettrick, head of the Red Hook Civic Association, said he shared the goals of the “No Toxic Red Hook” group. He added that the option put forth by Quadrozzi was only one of seven or eight being considered by the Environmental Protection Agency, which is supervising the remediation of the Gowanus Canal as a Superfund site.
He stressed that the terminal is not only near the ballfield, it is also near a school and the IKEA parking lot.
A more likely scenario, he said, is that the sludge, or at least some of it, would be barged out through the canal, then put onto trucks and trains and transported to an approved landfill.
In any scenario, some of the sludge would be left at the bottom of the canal, covered with concrete, then “capped” with a secure material.
Hans Hesselein, executive director of the Gowanus Canal Conservancy, said the matter had been discussed at several community-board and other neighborhood meetings, and tensions ran high.
Some people saw Quadrozzi’s proposal as an economic boon to the community, he said, while others strongly objected because of the environmental implications.
Eric Stern, a former EPA scientist who now teaches at Montclair State College, said that decontaminating Superfund sites in urban areas with dense populations presents unique problems. Of all the methods of disposing of toxic waste, he adds, the only one that completely destroys it is incineration – not a popular alternative in today’s world.