Gowanus Canal Superfund Project Team Health and Safety


As we continue to adjust to the evolving COVID-19 situation, Gowanus Canal Superfund Project Team (GCSPT) is taking the necessary steps to ensure that decisions about cleanup activities at the Gowanus Canal Superfund site are made with the health and safety of the community and site workers as the priority.  Moreover, our contractors are implementing health and safety plans specific to preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus during cleanup activities. These plans require best practices for site safety, including face covering, gloves, and other appropriate personal protective equipment for employees and visitors, including random temperature checks of employees, tracking employees who might be ill, and social distancing. EPA will continue to monitor site operations and the GCSPT’s health and safety practices.


Public and worker safety during construction is our number one priority. The Project Team has established a rigorous environmental monitoring program to ensure the safety of the site workers and the surrounding Gowanus community during remedial construction activities. During construction, we can expect some odors, temporary resuspension of sediment in the waterway, construction noise, and vibrations. Environmental monitoring includes air quality, water quality, noise, and vibration monitoring. Below the Project Team will post monitoring data recorded during work activities.


To protect public health and the safety of workers onsite and the community where people live, work, and shop, The Project Team, under the supervision and at the direction of the EPA, conducts an extensive air monitoring program designed and implemented by a third party, independent of the construction contractor. Fourteen (14) automated air monitoring stations have been placed along the canal to detect the presence of volatile compounds and particulate matter (dust). Urban settings like the areas surrounding the Gowanus Canal contain background levels of volatile compounds and particulate matter in the air regardless of the occurrence of remedial construction activities, and the monitoring takes into account these background levels. Volatile compounds and particulate matter include both man-made and natural occurring sources such as smog, paint, asphalt paving, vehicular emissions (diesel exhaust), and even vegetation (plants). The 14 air monitoring stations measure concentrations of volatile organic compounds and particulate matter, both during cleanup activities and outside of cleanup work. The Project Team will receive an alert in real time of any increases in the compounds and particulate matter, whether they are attributed to remedial construction or non-construction activities.

In the event that these activities result in levels of volatile compounds and particulate matter above pre-set levels, our construction team is alerted immediately so that we can investigate and address the elevated concentrations through a variety of established protocols. This process of investigating and addressing these issues serves to protect workers and surrounding communities. In addition to the automated air monitors, the Project Team actively surveys the canal for odors during construction to identify and address nuisance odors that may be caused by the construction activities.


The Gowanus Canal Superfund Project Team (GCSPT) has placed water quality monitoring buoys in the canal to detect resuspension of sediment related to the construction activities. These buoys measure the turbidity (or cloudiness) of the water and transmit this data in real time to our monitoring personnel. Turbidity is a measure of how well light penetrates the water. If small solid particles are present, the water can appear murky or turbid. Turbidity can occur naturally through algae blooms and by human activities, such as rainstorm runoff. The GCSPT monitors the turbidity data to adjust construction activities in the canal if levels increase to an unacceptable level as a result of the construction.


Significant noise during dredging activities is not anticipated. During bridge and bulkhead support work, noise monitors will be stationed along the canal to ensure that noise levels during construction comply with local noise ordinances. Noise is measured using the decibel scale.  For example, normal conversation is typically around 60 decibels, and electric saw is around 100 decibels, and amplified rock music is around 120 decibels.