46 Brownfields along the Canal

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Coal Tar is the bi-product of coal gas. Coal was brought on boats and heated to produce gas used for cooking, heating, and lighting. After the gas was captured, the tar was cooled in storage tanks. As seen in the picture above, the tanks were not well sealed structures and often times, the tar escaped into the ground. And not just the surface, but deep into the ground. The marshland, acting like a sponge, absorbed the toxic, volatile, chemicals. And since they are volatile (meaning that they are constantly evaporating) they release their gasses back into the air that we breath. Emitting toxic plumes that can be dangerous to our health and the health of the environment.

But isn’t it a Superfund site, aren't they cleaning it up?
Only the canal is actually listed on the EPA's list of most polluted sites in the United States. It will be dredged and then capped to prevent coal tar deep in the native sediment from bubbling back up. The land surrounding the canal, which includes the MGP and Brownfield sites, are being remediated by the PRPs (potentially responsible parties) under the direction of NYS DEC. In most cases, our State agency is only asking the PRPs to scrape the top layer of soil off and to install a plastic vapor barrier, leaving deep pockets of coal tar in the ground. This is grossly inadequate and is not a long term solution.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

The VOC chemicals found in the ground, Benzene among others are known carcinogens. There is no safe level of exposure. There are State laws in place to protect us. But nobody is holding them accountable. We demand a more responsible clean up.

  1. To protect the Superfund from continued contamination.
  2. To protect current residents from breathing volatile air.
  3. To ensure that future residents don’t have to live on top of it.


The Big 3 Offenders of toxic pollution

  • Citizens Gas
  • Fulton Gas
  • Metropolitan Gas

Citizens Manufacturing Gas Site

  • One of most polluted brownfields in the state if not the country.
  • Toxic Tar depth: 150’ below ground.
  • Current Owner: City of New York
  • Responsible Party: National Grid
  • Location: Smith btwn 5th Street & Huntington


Fulton Manufacturing Gas Site

  • underneath Thomas Greene Park & the Double D Pool
  • Coal tar depth: 0’-150’ below ground and migrating to other side of the canal.
  • Current Owner: City of New York, Parks Department
  • Responsible party: National Grid
  • Location: Nevins btwn Douglas & DeGraw (Double D).

Metropolitan Manufactured Gas Site

  • Current location of Lowe's and Big Reuse
  • Current Owner: Two Trees
  • Responsible Party: National Grid
  • Location: 2nd Ave between 10th and 12th St

Larger map of all Brownfields and Superfund sites around Gowanus

source:Brownfield and Superfund site locations