The Gowanus Canal started flooding before Hurricane Sandy even reached her peak, and while the surrounding neighborhood didn't suffer as extreme flooding as some others, residents still have a lot of cleaning up to do and one big concern: what exactly was in that water? The Gowanus is known for its pungent smell, slick oil sheen, and the fact that its an end point for sewer overflow. During the storm, the Times reports that one resident rushed into his flooding basement to save belongings, and emerged from the waters covered in a "greasy, oil slick."
The EPA, which is leading the Superfund clean-up, said the water that came out of the Gowanus was very diluted with saltwater, but all floodwaters are contaminated. Near the canal, the waters likely picked up contaminants from nearby auto shops and garages, plus contaminants in the soil that are decades old. Floodwater samples are being tested to make sure that Sandy did not stir up the toxic sediment (coal tar, lead, VOCs) on the bottom of the canal. But even with all of the pollution concerns, the neighbors don't plan on going anywhere?they plan on preparing for the next flood.
With Lightstone Group's forthcoming 700-apartment development, many residents are calling for major upgrades to infrastructure. Lightstone accounts for sea-level rise in their plan?the development will be raised nine feet above high tide leve, they are installing new bulkheads, and a new storm drain system to prevent CSO?but these changes don't affect the entire canal or neighborhood. One resident, architect Michael King, stayed in his house for the entire storm just to see how the floodwaters came in, telling the Times, "I wanted to fix it for next time, because there's going to be a next time. We have a lot better idea now."
· In Brooklyn, Worrying About Not Only Flooding but Also What's in Water [NYT]
· Lightstone Group's Future Gowanus Site Already Flooded [Curbed]
Image of the Gowanus during the storm via Pardon Me For Asking