This glossary includes definitions of terms and acronyms that are mentioned within this website and documents that appear in the document library. Glossary terms can be searched by clicking on the first letter of the term.
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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.
- Clean Water Act (CWA)
A federal law passed in 1972 that establishes guidelines for water quality in the United States.
- Cleanup Activities
Cleanup activities at a site include removals, studies, remedy selection, remedy design, remedy implementation, and post-construction activities. The completion of each activity enables the site to move further along in the cleanup process.
-Post-Construction – Superfund Post-Construction is a cleanup phase where several activities are generally undertaken at sites following the construction of response actions. These activities include operation and maintenance and long-term response actions; five-year reviews, close-out reports, and deletion from the NPL. The goal of Superfund Post-Construction is to ensure that response actions provide for the long-term protection of human health and the environment.
- Community Advisory Group (CAG)
A Community Advisory Group (CAG) is made up of representatives of diverse community interests. A CAG is designed to serve as the focal point for the exchange of information among the local community and United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), state regulatory agencies, and other pertinent federal agencies involved in cleanup of the Superfund site. The CAG website for the Gowanus Canal Superfund Site can be found at gowanuscag.org.
- Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA)
CERCLA, more commonly known as Superfund, is the law passed by Congress in 1980 that authorizes the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to clean up sites contaminated with hazardous substances.
- Contaminants of Concern (COC)
Chemicals identified during in-depth site studies (Remedial Investigation (RI)/Feasibility Study (FS)) that need to be addressed by a cleanup action because they pose a potential threat to human health or the environment.
- Contaminated Sediment Technical Advisory Group (CSTAG)
A technical advisory group that is part of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Superfund process and established to monitor progress and provide technical counsel on complex aspects of a cleanup project. The group is comprised of representatives from EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers.
- Dense Non-Aqueous Phase Liquid (DNAPL)
A Dense Non-Aqueous Phase Liquid (DNAPL) that is heavier than water. These will sink to the bottom of a waterway as opposed to light Non-Aqueous Phase Liquid (NAPL)s, like oil or gasoline, that may float. NAPLs can appear as sheens on top of water.
- Dissolved Oxygen (DO)
A measurement of the amount of oxygen that is dissolved in water and an indicator of the quality of water. Higher levels of DO indicate better water quality.
- Feasibility Study (FS)
A phase in the Superfund process done following the Remedial Investigation (RI). This study develops and evaluates alternative remedial actions based upon the data collected from the RI.
- Flushing Tunnel
Installed in 1911, the flushing tunnel is a large propeller that brings water into the Gowanus Canal from Buttermilk Channel (between lower Brooklyn and Governor’s Island through a brick-lined 1.2-mile (1.9-km) tunnel. Rehab of the tunnel began in 1994 and it was then reactivated in 1999. An upgrade began in 2010 and it was once again reactivated in 2014.
- In-Situ Stabilization (ISS)
A remediation process by which contaminants are rendered immobile through reactions with stabilizing compounds mixed directly into the soil or sediment.
- Oleophilic Clay
A modified clay specially designed to trap contaminants through adhesion while allowing water to pass through. This material is effective in many multi-layer engineered capping applications to prevent transport of contaminants into the water column, particularly Non-Aqueous Phase Liquid (NAPL)s. 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 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 (EPA) 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. Contaminants on site may be due to historical, predecessor company actions over the many years of industry along the canal and not solely due to the current PRP.
- Preliminary Assessment
The process used by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 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.
- 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 and is a precursor to the Record of Decision (ROD).
- 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.