The Gowanus Canal Conservancy is an independent environmental 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization formed in 2006 by former members of the Environmental Committee of the Gowanus Canal Community Development Corporation. Our mission is to be a steward for the preservation, restoration and green development of the Gowanus Canal and its environs for the greater good of the community.
About the Gowanus Canal
The 1.8 mile long Gowanus Canal was created in the mid-late 1800s on the site of a former saltmarsh and creek and has seen its fair share of environmental issues. For years, it has captured raw sewage waste from adjacent residential neighborhoods, industrial waste products from the businesses located along its banks, and polluted surface run off. At the same time, the canal is dotted with structures and bridges that celebrate its important industrial history and is home to egrets, cormorants, and other forms of wildlife. The area is currently filled with small industries, businesses, residences, and art studios. It is slated for rezoning by the City and also became a national Superfund site in 2010.
Sources of pollution in the canal:
- Industrial Pollution: Factories that lined the canal in the late 1800s to mid-1900s dumped their waste in its waters and on nearby land. The industrial waste dumped onto the land not only contaminates the land but is also continually leeching into the canal waters. Pollutants that settled out of canal waters poisoned the sediments throughout the length of the canal.
- Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs): The Gowanus Watershed is the area of land surrounding the Gowanus Canal and which drains into the canal. The watershed extends well uphill from the canal into Park Slope, Carroll Gardens, Boerum Hill, and Cobble Hill. The sewer system throughout New York City is a combined system: the sewer pipes leading from our toilets, bathtubs, sinks, etc. are connected to the pipes that drain rainwater from the street. When weather conditions are dry, the raw sewage is allowed to travel to the sewage treatment plant. But when we have extreme rain events, the rainwater in this combined system which falls within the Gowanus Watershed (i.e., the areas in the surrounding neighborhoods that drain into the canal) throws off the proper functioning of the sewer system: the excess rainwater combines with the raw sewage and dumps this mixture into the Gowanus Canal.
- Surface Runoff: There are contaminants on the adjacent streets that are carried into the canal with surface stormwater runoff.