Watchdog to EPA: Step up Gowanus Canal cleanup enforcement

By Miranda Willson | 03/21/2024 01:16 PM EDT

A sewer tank project at the infamous Superfund site is more than six years behind schedule and significantly over budget, the inspector general said.

In this Friday, July 1, 2016 photo, a flower floats along in a sewage run-off on Brooklyn's Gowanus Canal, in New York.

A flower floats along in a sewage run-off on Brooklyn's Gowanus Canal in New York on July 1, 2016. The canal is a Superfund site polluted with decades' worth of industrial waste and sewage. Bebeto Matthews/AP

A major construction project designed to help clean up one of the most contaminated water bodies in the U.S. is years behind schedule and massively over budget, EPA’s independent watchdog said Thursday.

New York City has been building underground tanks to prevent millions of gallons of sewage from entering the Gowanus Canal, a Superfund site in a densely populated Brooklyn neighborhood. But the tank project is now 6 ½ years behind schedule and EPA’s regional office in New York has been slow to crack down on the delays, according to the EPA Office of Inspector General.

The slow progress has prolonged the community’s exposure to heavy metals, sewage and polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, in the canal, said the report. What’s more, the cost of building the combined sewer overflow tanks is now over $1 billion — a 1,300 percent increase compared to the original cost estimate, the report said.


“Substantial delays and significant cost increases are unacceptable for the residents living near the Gowanus Canal and for the taxpayers who must pay for the increasing costs,” EPA Inspector General Sean O’Donnell said in a statement.