This glossary includes definitions of terms and acronyms that are mentioned within this website and documents that appear in the document library.
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- Aeration System
A system designed to add air to water. Air can be added to water by either passing air through water or passing water through air. Aeration promotes biological degradation of organic matter in water.
The varying physical characteristics–including depth, contour, sediment and shape–of the bottom of bodies of water. The bathymetry of the Gowanus varies greatly among the three reaches.
- Benthic Community
The group of organisms living at the bottom of a pond, river, lake or ocean.
A man-made structure to retain land from sliding into the waterway.
- Feasibility Study (FS)
A phase in the Superfund process done in conjunction with the Remedial Investigation (RI). This study develops and evaluates alternative remedial actions.
- Flushing Tunnel
Installed in 1911 and reactivated in 1999, the flushing tunnel is a large propeller that moves water into and out of the Gowanus Canal either through a brick-lined 1.2-mile (1.9-km) tunnel via Butler Street to Buttermilk Channel (between lower Brooklyn and Governor’s Island) or through the mouth of the Canal that opens into New York Harbor.
- Groundwater Upwelling
The occurrence of groundwater seeping into a body of water through the sediment on its floor.
- In-Situ Stabilization (ISS)
A soil remediation process by which contaminants are rendered immobile through reactions with stabilizing compounds injected into the soil or sediment.
- Oleophilic Clay
A modified clay specially designed to trap hydrocarbons like Non-Aqueous Phase Liquid (NAPL) through adhesion while allowing water to pass through. This material is effective in many multi-layer engineered capping applications to prevent transport of NAPLs into the water column. Commonly found bentonite or hectorite clay is altered to produce the oleophilic clay.
- Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs)
Polychlorinated biphenyls have a range of toxicity and vary in consistency from thin, light-colored liquids to yellow or black waxy solids. PCBs were used in hundreds of industrial and commercial applications including electrical, heat transfer and hydraulic equipment; as plasticizers in paints, plastics and rubber products; in pigments, dyes and carbonless copy paper; and many other industrial applications.
- Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs)
These organic chemicals are formed during the incomplete burning of coal, oil and gas, garbage, or other organic substances. They are found in tar, crude oil, creosote and roofing tar and are common in areas with high rates of development and motor vehicle traffic.
- Potentially Responsible Parties (PRPs)
Parties that may have contributed waste to the site. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) uses document reviews, site investigations, interviews, information supplied in response to information request letters, and title searches to determine a party’s liability for cleanup at a Superfund site.
- Preliminary Assessment
The process used by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) based on readily available information to determine if a particular site poses any threat to human health or the environment. It also makes recommendations where appropriate about possible further investigation or evaluation for corrective actions. See preliminary assessment section.
- Proposed Remedial Action Plan (PRAP)
A study of alternatives considered for remediation of a hazardous waste site and the rationale for selecting a recommended alternative. The PRAP is based on the site’s Remedial Investigation (RI) and Feasibility Study (FS). The PRAP is reviewed by the public, state agencies, and other parties. See PRAP section.
Solid materials, such as dirt, minerals or rocks, that settle at the bottom of a body of water.
- Semivolatile Organic Compounds (SVOCs)
Closely related to VOCs, these compounds change to gas very slowly at a standard temperature.
The federal government’s program, overseen by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA), to clean up the nation’s uncontrolled hazardous waste sites. See the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA).
- Superfund Project Team
The Gowanus Canal Superfund Project Team (GCSPT) is a large team of engineers, scientists, and consultants, designing a remedy for the Gowanus Canal that is effective and constructible.
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
Organic compounds that can become a gas at room temperature. VOCs are the leading cause of ground-level ozone. Common sources which may emit VOCs into the air include housekeeping and maintenance products; paints, coatings, and inks; and building and furnishing materials.