Water advocacy group wants Gowanus Canal cleaned

A group in Brooklyn is warning that the polluted Gowanus Canal is at its breaking point.

A group in Brooklyn is warning that the polluted Gowanus Canal is at its breaking point.

A group in Brooklyn is warning that the polluted Gowanus Canal is at its breaking point. (5/30/16)

BROOKLYN - A group in Brooklyn is warning that the polluted Gowanus Canal is at its breaking point.

John Lipscomb, a member of the Riverkeeper organization that has been patrolling the canal for years, says coal tar has long been an issue for the waterway.

"This is the kiss of death for wildlife if they get in this stuff," he says.

Lipscomb says he has taken pictures of dead geese floating through the water coated in oil. He claims oil companies once used the canal as a dumping ground for hazardous containments.

Lipscomb says the problem in the Gowanus Canal is twofold. Not only is the waterway desecrated with oil, but also with sewage.

"To make this waterbody healthy again, safe for human contact, safe for wildlife, we're going to have to deal with both," he says.

He and Carol Knudson, a research assistant at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, have been sampling the water for fecal contamination.

"This station has failed 58 percent of the time, so the Gowanus is in trouble," Knudson says.

The Environmental Protection Agency has begun looking at the canal to determine how it can help.

Lipscomb says the city is slowing the process down by trying to attain private property to build a giant sewage tank when there's readily available public land nearby.

"We want this done, the community wants this done," he says. "If wildlife could speak, it would say 'please get this done.'"

News 12 reached out to the Department of Environmental Protection but has not yet heard back.

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