Environmental Science Report essay

It is not a secret that water pollution is one of the major environmental concerns today. Water plays an important role not only in human consumption, irrigation and transportation system, but also it plays an important role in providing support to life chain functioning. The problem that will be addressed in this paper is water pollution. The Gowanus Canal, in Brooklyn, New York, is one of the locations that generate serious environmental problems. The Canal is 1.8 mile long and 100 foot wide. A wide range of pollutants are found in this location. The Gowanus Canal once was a significant industrial passageway, which symbolized prosperity of the nation, but now it is a health hazard for the nation (Gowanus Canal, Brooklyn, NY 11231, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2014).  The Gowanus Canal is bounded by Park Slope, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens and Red Hook. The canal flows into New York Harbor. The construction of the Canal was completed in 1869 in order to make the Gowanus Canal the key transportation route for New York City. There are many industrial facilities operating along the canal, including “manufactured gas plants, mills, tanneries, and chemical plants” (Gowanus Canal, Brooklyn, NY 11231, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2014). The major goal of this report is to investigate current environmental concerns learning more about Superfund or landfill sites in designated areas in and around NYC. The research will be focused on the study of water pollution of the Gowanus Canal Superfund site.


Description of the historical perspective on the problem/issue

The Gowanus Canal was built in 1869 to perform the functions of the major industrial transportation route in NYC. Contamination of the Canal is caused by harmful substances or industrial wastes from three manufactured gas plants, several paper mills, tanneries and chemical plants, which are operating along the Canal. In addition, contamination is caused by overflows from the local sewer systems that bring domestic wastes from homes and rainwater from storm drains (Gowanus Canal, Brooklyn, NY 11231, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2014). The problem of water contamination is not a new environmental concern. If not properly controlled, the issue of water contamination may lead to ecological disaster in the region. Undoubtedly, this environmental concern should be minimized by means of effective strategies. The problem of water contamination has been addressed by different environmental organizations, including the Environmental Protection Agency.

Realization of the problem/issue

It is known that the problems of the Gowanus Сanal have been identified on March 2, 2010 by the Environmental Protection Agency, when the Gowanus Canal was added to the Agency’s Superfund National Priorities List (NPL). The contamination of the Gownaus Canal has been properly investigated at the site in order to develop effective approaches to address current environmental problems.

The types of risk assessments done in order to realize the problem/issue

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “actual or threatened releases of hazardous substances from the Site, if not addressed by implementing the response action, may present an imminent and substantial endangerment to public health, welfare or the environment” (Record of Decision, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2014). To assess the risks, the Environmental Protection Agency conducted a Remedial Investigation, which helped to characterize the nature of contamination in the Canal, its extent, the major human health and ecological risks from exposure to contamination, the major sources of contamination, and the key physical and chemical characteristics of the site that will affect the selection of the proper cleanup strategies (Gowanus Canal, New York Environmental Protection, 2014). The main types of risk assessment included a “bathymetric study, sediment, groundwater, surface water, air, fish tissue sampling, and an investigation of hundreds of pipes that lead to the Canal” (Gowanus Canal, New York Environmental Protection, 2014). During the investigation, more than 500 samples of sediment from the Gowanus Canal were collected by the ecologists, as well as more than 80 water samples, which identified the presence of various contaminants. Besides, the ecologists collected about 200 fish, such as striped bass, blue crab, eel and white perch in order to provide a comprehensive analysis of their tissue for the presence of contaminants. In addition, they collected air samples at the site where people would breathe while boating and fishing in the Canal (Gowanus Canal, New York Environmental Protection, 2014). The sampling has shown that water pollution water in the Canal is heavily contaminated.

The major potential toxins that may have affected a community

The potential toxins that may have affected the local community have been properly investigated by ecologists. Actually, the Gowanus Canal as an industrial canal, and many pollutants have been found in its waters, based on recent studies (Gowanus Canal, Brooklyn, NY 11231, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 2014). As a result of continual discharge operations, regular storm water runoff, current sewer outflows and a wide range of industrial pollutants, the Gowanus Canal has turned to the most extensively polluted water body. The major toxins include polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), coal tar wastes, heavy metals (mercury, lead and copper) and volatile organics (Gowanus Canal, Brooklyn, NY 11231, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 2014). Thus, the contamination of the canal poses a serious threat to the local communities, including the people who use the Gowanus Canal for various activities, such as fishing and recreation activities.

The media toxins travelled through

The media, toxins travelled through, include three major sources of water contamination of the Canal: first, the sewage; second, the adjacent industries, and third, the growing local community. For example, the Manufactured Gas Plant (MGP) is one of the major sources of contamination of the Canal (Gowanus Canal, Brooklyn, NY 11231, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 2014).

The major direct effects from toxic poisoning in a community

Toxic poisoning has direct effects on humans, flora and fauna of aquatic life. For example, Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) have harmful effects on aquatic organisms and humans. This toxic substance has caused tumors in people and animals when they have long periods of skin contact with it. People exposed by skin contact to PAHs and other compounds in water can also develop skin diseases (Public Health Statement for Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs), 1995).  Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) have harmful effects on immune system and nervous system. Coal tar wastes, heavy metals (mercury, lead and copper) and volatile organics have harmful effects on reproduction function and lead to poisoning of organs (e.g. kidney dysfunction, liver toxicity, lung and respiratory diseases) and immune function disorders.

The scientific data used to verify the problem/ issue

The scientific data that can be used to verify the problem/ issue discussed in this paper includes data charts and graphs provided by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Policy and Recommendation

The major policy and economic developments that took place in order to remediate the problem/issue

The major policies and economic developments took place in order to remediate the problem of the Gowanus Canal contamination. According to Pearsall (2013), “municipal governments have incorporated brownfield redevelopment programs into urban sustainability plans to encourage the redevelopment of the site into productive uses” (p. 2293). Due to joint actions of the government and environmental institutions, effective initiatives have been developed to reduce the risk of contamination. The Federal Water Pollution Control Act and the Clean Water Act govern the waters discharged to the Gowanus canal. In 2013, the Environmental Protection Agency completed the development of Cleanup Plan for the Gowanus Canal Superfund Site. The policy requires spending $506 million for cleanup procedures to remove contaminated sediment (Rodriguez, 2013).

The actual remediation procedure used to address this problem

In order to remediate the problem, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency developed the proper methods to address the issue of contaminated sediment. Some of the components of the actual remediation procedure include dredging of accumulated substance-contaminated sediments stored above the natural sediments of the canal, the so-called soft sediments; construction of a specially developed multi-layered capping in order to prevent the movement of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and residual NAPL from natural sediments, dredging of the soft sediment found in the lower reach of the Gowanus Canal, providing off-Site thermal treatment of dredged sediments and turning basins, maintenance and control of the site, and other effective remedies. In general, in December 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency developed the draft of Feasibility Study, which assessed the best alternatives for reducing all risks to human health and the natural environment from exposure to contaminated water and sediment in the Gowanus Canal (Feasibility Study: Gowanus Canal, 2011).


            Thus, it is necessary to conclude that the problem of water pollution has been widely discussed by ecologists as the Gowanus Canal represents not only increased industrialization rate, but also neglect of the local authorities and the U.S. government. Today the Gowanus Canal is perceived as an important industrial canal that causes serious damage to local communities and the natural environment.  Today local communities, authorities and the U.S. government understand the problem of the Gowanus Canal, which requires using the proper strategies, such as the removal of contaminated sediment and providing the capping of dredged areas. It is necessary to control the sewage overflows and other sources of contamination. The remedial alternatives for the Gowanus Canal sediments can help to reduce risks to human health and the environment from considerable exposure to contaminated water and sediment. In order to personally help to change the problem like this in the future, I can participate in various environmental programs and public meetings aimed at preserving the natural environment, and take action providing donation or be involved in volunteering work. I realize that the immense water pollution that can be found in the Canal violated the established rules and regulations, including the Clean Water Act. It is our major goal to save the environment and improve human health through effective initiatives developed not only by the local authorities and the U.S. government, but also by ordinary residents.

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