Public Lab Research note

City Of Water Day oil spotting

by liz | September 07, 2013 22:20 07 Sep 22:20 | #9301 | #9301

Posting on behalf of Eymund Diegel:

Recreational boaters captured evidence of 150 year old oil spill coming from a pipe that Superfund surveyors had overlooked.

Superfund readings of water quality had already indicated there was a 5x spike of oil in this area, but the cause was unknown. Most spikes are related to coal tar manufacturing, but this was an unaccounted for 4th spike. GLAM members reported their finding to the Superfund Community Advisory Council with a recommendation for the excavation of the property to include this pipe.

Full story

July 20, 2013: Gowanus Voyage was a great success ! Full description here:

Because of the turbulent wind conditions, our Conservancy balloon mapping Canon SD880 "Hello Kitty" camera went for a little nose dive in the Canal waters but still valiantly managed to capture some (water blurred) shots.

Proteus Gowanus flickr stream:

Though Gowanus Voyage was just a fun community event, pictures of the old oil seepage showed up in the model boat aerials, reminding us that the Superfund program and private developers need to work together with the cleanup efforts.

This large pool of oil is sitting right on top of the old horseshoe bend of old Gowanus Creek, now the Lightstone property, which will be moving into construction phase. A century later the oil is still seeping into the canal.

City of Water Day Newtown Creek Armada / Brooklyn Atlantis model boaters and Gowanus Canal Conservancy Grassroots Mappers captured the aerials of oil slicks:

Oil in Water:


Oil seeping from pipe:


1886 Vesta Oil Works (365 Bond Street), now the 2nd Street Dredgers Dock:


1870 NYTimes article about fire at Vesta Oil works that caused 1,500 55 gallon drums to spill:


Old Stream Bed: As old Gowanus Creek ran right underneath the site of the fire, the oil plume from this accident is still affecting Canal water quality a century later. See embedded PDF below or on the Issuu site:

These allow for a more focused cleanup effort as the redevelopment of this site moves forward. You can find out more about Superfund analysis of this particular site at:

Also thank you to DEP for cranking up the oxygen feeds to the Gowanus Canal for City of Water day. The previous two months of Gowanus water quality have been under 1 milligram of dissolved oxygen per liter. (the legal NYSDEC requirement is 3 mg). Anything less than 3 mg per liter makes the Canal smell like rotten eggs.

John Hoffman of the DEP team was kind enough to reach out on Saturday at the 2nd Street event with a demonstration of the oxygen meter, showing that oxygen levels were around 4.7 mg per liter, an improvement over previous months.


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