Stories Of Sandy: Cleaning the Gowanus

As the waters rose around the city’s coastline, residents of Gowanus and Carroll Gardens had an even bigger fear than flooded houses and businesses: toxic chemicals and sewage.

The Gowanus Canal is a federal Superfund site, noted for its excessively contaminated waters. During Sandy’s assault, the canal’s banks overflowed early and often, sending questionable water and sewage into streets, basements and businesses. A test from the Environmental Protection Agency revealed that while there were high levels of bacteria found in the water, there were no toxic chemicals. High tide also “flushed” in clean ocean water.

That is a relief, say residents, but there are other problems, as well, including some lack of power and extensive property damage, including to underground transformers.

John Heyer II, Gowanus resident and owner of Scotto Funeral Home in Carroll Gardens, has been among those at the forefront of the recovery effort for the surrounding area. He said food and clothing has been donated and distributed by area residents, and a food/clothing/cleaning supply bank has been opened at Sacred Heart St. Stevens Church, at 125 Summit Street.

“There’s a lot of aid going to other places” that are more heavily hit and damaged, said Heyer, who noted that it took a while for the National Guard and FEMA to arrive. “I understand that more residential areas need focus, but that doesn’t help me tell my three-year-old that he can go home.”

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