Cleanup at three Brooklyn superfund sites will continue as planned, a Public Information Official working with the EPA told NYER last week. The work to remediate the Gowanus Canal, Newtown Creek, and the lead-contaminated Red Hook Ballfields will move forward, despite any actions by the new Trump administration.
In recent weeks, controversy and confusion has swirled after the Trump’s transition team ordered a freeze on all EPA grants and subcontracts. According to ProPublica, the move could “affect a significant part of the agency’s budget allocations and even threaten to disrupt core operations ranging from toxic cleanups to water quality testing.”
There has been a flurry of information leaking from sources within the EPA—most unable to be officially confirmed—but an EPA employee aware of the freeze spoke with ProPublica and stated that:
“…he had never seen anything like it in nearly a decade with the agency. Hiring freezes happened, he said, but freezes on grants and contracts seemed extraordinary. The employee said the freeze appeared to be nationwide, and as of Monday night it was not clear for how long it would be in place.”
However, Elias Rodriguez, the EPA officer assigned to the Brooklyn projects, told NYER that “the EPA fully intends to continue to provide information to the public. A fresh look at public affairs and communications processes is common practice for any new administration, and a short pause in activities allows for this assessment.”
In general, Superfund cleanups are primarily funded not by the government but by “responsible parties” that contributed to the pollution.
As of press time, Scott Pruitt, President Trump’s nominee to head the EPA, had been confirmed by the Senate Committee. Republicans suspended the Environment and Public Works Committee’s rules to approve the cabinet pick despite a Democratic boycott.
Red Hook Cleanup
In 2015, the EPA closed multiple baseball fields in Red Hook after high levels of lead were found in the soil. The contamination was caused by a former smelting and refining facility that was once sited at the corner of Hicks and Lorraine, directly atop ball field #7. The factory operated from the 1920s through the late 1930s.
The fields impacted include Ball Fields 5, 6, 7 and 8 and Soccer Field 7.
The cleanup, performed by the New York City Parks Department and overseen by the EPA, is slated to begin this fall and cost approximately $105 million.
The Gowanus Canal was named a Superfund site in 2011. Cleanup is in progress, beginning with debris removal late last year, and is expected to continue until at least 2022.
Newtown Creek competes with the Gowanus Canal for the title of the most polluted body of water in New York City. It was named a Superfund site in 2010, but studies are still ongoing; feasible cleanup recommendations are expected by 2019.