The Gowanus Will Soon Be Equipped With Poop-Catching Basins

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  • Daily Intel

In the ongoing fight for the poopy, watery soul of the Gowanus, the EPA has come up with a new plan not only for cleaning up all the pre-existing sludge and “coal tar” at the canal’s base, but for preventing (or at least minimizing) the flow of raw sewage into the water. This one involves giant basins of poop.

A new EPA proposal for the Superfund site now includes plans for $78 million basins at two of the canal’s most vulnerable locations. The eight million gallon tanks would corral the excess sewer runoff that comes, say, during massive storms, and would essentially serve as holding tanks until the waste could be flushed to a nearby treatment facility.

Apparently the canal’s constant sewage problem has only recently become a priority, as officials were focused on all the toxic chemicals at the canal’s bottom, and were unsure whether or not the sewage was even a significant source of chemical pollution. Which seems like a sort of insane thing to even be on the fence about, but regardless, testing has since revealed that yes, the sewage is a pretty bad thing.

“The [combined sewage overflows] are not the dominant source of toxic pollution at this point, but they are an important source of it and the importance of that source will increase when the other sources are cut off,” said EPA regional administrator Walter Mugdan. “[It] needs to be controlled in order to get the full cleanup.”

Well, yes. In theory, the bins will reduce flow of sewage into the Gowanus’ waters by 58 to 74 percent, and are far cheaper than, say, re-structuring the entire surrounding sewer system to prevent runoff from happening in the first place. In any case, this whole bureaucratic quagmire of a project won’t be wrapped up until 2020 so, you know, continue avoiding the water down there at all costs. Business as usual.

Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.