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Mayor Adams unveils $1.6 billion project to help clean up the Gowanus Canal

Major milestone in Gowanus Canal cleanup
Major milestone in Gowanus Canal cleanup 02:23

NEW YORK - Used as a dumping ground for toxic waste for decades, the Gowanus Canal superfund is on the road to recovery.

Wednesday, the city marked a major milestone in the cleanup - groundbreaking for storage tanks that will keep sewage from flowing into the canal.  

Black mayonnaise - toxic sludge dredged from the bottom of the Gowanus Canal - filled a barge in Nov. 2022

"Welcome to the Gowanus Canal," said clean water advocate Christopher Swain. 

In 2018, CBS2 caught up with Swain after his third swim in the canal. He braved the polluted waters to raise awareness. 

"They've cultured all sorts of bacteria and viruses in this canal. They've even found live gonorrhea after sewage events in the canal," Swain said. 

"Its been a part of where I've grown up, and I've always known that its dirty and stinky, and its got a lot of stuff going on in there," said Carroll Gardens resident Joyce Baldino. 

Baldino says more needs to be done to tackle the challenge of cleanup. 

Wednesday, there was a move in the right direction. Mayor Eric Adams, along with the EPA, city leaders and community members, symbolically shifted soil. 

"Today we are breaking ground on the new urban infrastructure that is making it all possible," Adams said. 

The mayor says it will make New York City and the Gowanus Canal more resilient, sustainable, and beautiful.

The city will install two underground sewage storage tanks along the Canal.

"This is a vital part of the superfund project that will be completed to ensure the canal is cleaned up," said EPA Regional Administrator Lisa Garcia. 

The two underground tanks will work to keep 12 million gallons of sewage from overflowing into the river when it rains. A head house will shelter operating equipment, while rooftop solar panels power it. 

The project also includes more than three acres of green space for recreational use. That's a huge bonus for Andrea Park, executive director of Gowanus Canal Conservancy. 

"The Gowanus neighborhood is severely lacking in parks and green space and has long been disconnected from the canal itself," Park said. 

Waterfront esplanades and a kayak launch are part of the project, too. 

"I think that's wonderful. I walk past here everyday and I'd love to see it cleaned up," said Park Slope resident Marsh Parris. 

The city will foot the bill for the project - $1.6 billion.  

Both tanks should be completed by 2030. One will be known as Red Hook the other Owls Head.

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