Later this year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will be making a decision about where to dump tons of toxic sludge from the Gowanus Canal. The key word here is toxic.
Several meetings were scheduled to explain the process. The EPA is asking our community to vote yes or no to a plan that would expand the shore line and bring semi-toxic materials to the neighborhood. And for a few more short weeks, we have a chance to voice our concerns.
According to their recommendation, all of the sludge would be dewatered in the area. After the sludge is dewatered, it then must undergo detoxification and then disposed of. The most toxic sludge would then be shipped out of the area for detoxification and disposal. The least toxic third would be dealt with locally. The effects for Red Hook is spelled out in one sentence of their 34 page report:
Option G—On-site stabilization of lesser contaminated sediments and placement in on-site CDF—would be evaluated based upon community acceptance and the approval of NYSDEC and other appropriate governmental regulatory authorities.
To our knowledge there has been very little – if any – acceptance.
We heard the EPA say that they only want good things for us. They are here to help save our ecosystems which is why they work for this benevolent government agency in the first place.
When we asked what good their plan would do for the Red Hooker, Mr. Tsiamos thought for a second before responded that they are enabling us to be able to fish again.
We guess he must think we’re a bunch of ignorant Huckleberry Finn types, walking around with our stuff danglin’ in a sack at the end of a pole, completely happy with a li’l restin’ time neath a tree between fishin’ and dranken.
For years Red Hook was a forgotten neighborhood in Brooklyn. Crime and drugs proliferated. Industry receded. NYCHA stopped policing here. The 76th concentrated their efforts on the surrounding white neighborhoods. Trolleys were replaced with double fare buses. Port Authority allowed the waterfront to disintegrate into dilapidated empty buildings. The piers rotted away. Park funding was cut to next to nothing.
Decades later, we have taken great strides to overcome the past. Meanwhile, the EPA seems to have struck a deal with a private operator who purchased the ill-fated Eastern Grain Terminal building for a song.
A detoxification facility would be built here, and the supposedly safe sludge would be added to the Red Hook shoreline. This extra land would be created on the property of Gowanus Bay Terminal (GBX) – a cement company owned by John Quadrozzi, Jr. He has said that the sludge would be beneficial for the local economy in at least two ways. By deepening the terminal’s pier, larger ships could be berthed. Secondly by giving him extra land onto which he plans to build an “eco-friendly” 21st century co-generation facility. This is a waste burning facility that would create electricity which he would sell back to Con Edison.
Truck traffic just became the smallest of our concerns. Imagine the conditions of living in the vicinity of an enormous garbage pyre. Think paper mill. Or even better, a sulfur plant.
When asked in public hearing show this plan would benefit anyone but John Quadrozzi, the response is always that it would save $37 million in costs by having the sludge stay in the area.
The cost of invoking this dirty plan is not taxpayer money, but is billed to the parties responsible for the pollution. Why should we save the offenders $37 million in exchange for leaving contaminated sludge so close to our recreational facilities?
Although the material will be treated, not all of the toxicity can be completely removed. There will still be potential hazards in the dredgings.
The EPA maintains that the plan is perfectly safe. But has the EPA ever used this specific model in the past, and what affect did it have on that community? During all of our research, the Star-Revue has found no similar project to compare this one with. If this is their first round model, how can they guarantee with 100% certainty this is not harmful?
The simple answer is that they cannot. We would be at the mercy of time to determine our fate. Logic suggests that agreeing to this hideous plan – potentially infecting our neighborhood – would be a terrible mistake.
The Environmental Protection Agency, in name suggests something that we require. Protection. As a community, we need to make them aware that we need their protection from this outrageous notion. Protect our health. Protect our community. Protect our children and all of Red Hook’s future generations.
We suggest that our readers respond to the EPA by signaling their disapproval for this plan. Sign the petition located online at http://notoxicredhook.com/.
There are currently no alternatives on the table. As a community of activists – the little people who step up and take on the giants with an air of courage and confidence – we need a different proposal.
Red Hookers will not be victims of a convenient plan. Red Hook will not be anyone’s dumping grounds. We don’t want decades of filth and toxicity in our community. It’s time to start this conversation.