SuperFUNd Site: boaters race in toxic canal

Posted at 6:34 PM, Jun 15, 2013
and last updated 2013-06-15 18:34:44-04

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK (PIX11)– “Well it’s a beautiful day for a boat race here in Brooklyn and what better place than the one and only super fun site that is the Gowanus Canal?”
“Superfund!  Superfund!”
“Superfund, like with a ‘d’? As in a government identified area that has potentially hazardous waste?  And people are racing on it?  What the…

“It’s putrid.”

But that didn’t stop 30 teams of boaters from rowing their way down the 2-point-5 mile course as part of the Gowanus Challege today.
Canoers, kayakers, rowers, and even one stand-up paddle boarder made their way to the mouth of the canal and back as part of the first ever boat race held at a Superfund site.
Several of them wearing their own hazmat suits for the trip.

“This to me is the craziest of the crazy to get out on a Superfund Site and go canoeing,” said Brooklyn resident Justin Burke.

Just one look at the canal and you can understand why; raw sewage washes in just about every time it rains.

“If it was on the street that means it flows over into our waterfront.”

And what’s underneath is worse.  Toxic sediment from oil refineries, machine shops, and chemical plants as well as other heavy industry has settled to the bottom.

Which is why the boaters say it was important to race.

“We’re here to bring awareness to one of the filthiest waterways on earth and the ultimate goal of course is to bring more attention to get more people involved here and get it cleaned up,” said David Shehigian of the Village Community Boathouse.

“This is a brilliant and great resource for the neighborhood and it really would be great if it was clean and people could use it without having to worry about falling in.”

The Environmental Protection Agency is working on a five hundred-million dollar plan to clean up the canal.
But that plan has been met with mixed reviews from the community.

Regardless of how it’s done, most agree cleaning up the Gowanus and improving the sewage systems have to be top priorities before the city moves forward with massive development planned for the area.

“We need to do green streets, we need to build waste treatment plants, we need to improve the way we handle our waste-water and our rainwater runoff,” said Owen Foote of the Gowanus Dredgers.