‘Black Mayonnaise’

New. York. Times. Oh how I love reading articles from you. Have any of you ever wondered what these journalist actually do for a living/ Do they just wake up and say ‘Hell, I cannot wait to write about pollution today’. Going off of that, do journalists actual give society all the facts, or is it skewed to make the story sound better? Personally, I think that all the editors and journalists fight over who gets the space that appears on the front page, so they will manipulate anything to make the ‘It Story’, but heck back to the lovely work of ecology. This year, the United States federal government Environmental Protection Agency decided that one of the canals in the lovely state of New York was shockingly, hazardous, contaminated, and toxic (yes I am aware these all mean the same thing, but I like the affect). Located in lovely Brooklyn, garbage and many other pollutants float down the 1.8 mile long waterway, what some of us may know as the Gowanus Canal.

As journalist Liz Robbins stated in her article US Announces Proposals to Clean Gowanus Canal, this ‘toxic cocktail’ has been under a close surveillance by the United States federal government for the past ten (ish) years. (Robbins) Roughly a month ago, (Early January 2012) the Environmental Protection Agency announced proposals (seven) to, “…dredge, cap and dispose,” the toxins located in the Gowanus Canal. However these plans are an estimated 300-400 million dollar investment. (Robbins) As Robbins mentions in this article, there are many sides of this multimillion dollar proposal. She talks about different government official’s opinions, incorporating federal, state, and city officials. In this article Hans Hasselein states that the canal must get worse before it can get any better, yet other officials are hesitant to spend so much money on it.(Robbins) If the federal government has declared this canal to be one of the most hazardous in the United States, then I do not understand the issue of why the money cannot be spent.

Throughout this entire article, we never once get an opinion given by a citizen, let alone one that lives near the canal. In the article Robbins did mention something about a meeting that was going to be held on January 24, 2012, discussing the concerns that citizens may have, so I decided to look into this meeting to actually get insight from the people that are being directly affected. After searching the internet for some time, I only found one article, which oddly enough was also from the New York Times (EPA Held Public Meeting on Gowanus Canal Clean Up.- Locals Concerned with Recontamination) In this article Gwen Ruelle discusses in a greater depth the technicality of the process; some of which include the lost 15 year process this plan would take and the benefits of getting rid of all the toxins for the local wildlife. Ruelle stated that the community reacted positively to the proposal although a few citizens brought up issues dealing with the possibly contamination of ground water. (Ruelle)

At this meeting, locals also pointed out this term ‘black mayonnaise,’ that I wanted to briefly touch upon. At the bottom of the canal there is a layer of sediment that has recently appeared to look like mayonnaise. Many toxins reside in the layer, including PCBs, PAHs, NAPLs, and heavy metals. For those of you that do not know, PCB is used in coolant fluids in electric motors, PAHs are aromatic hydrocarbons that are found in oil and tar, and NAPLs are non-aqueous phase liquids that do not dissolve in water (toxics.usgs.gov)

After reading about this, I became really curious to how all waterways of canals may be. I live in a small town and we have a canal that runs all the way through it. As children we used to swim in it when we wanted to be rebels against our parents. (pretty dumb considering my family has a pool) Now that I know in New York City studies find all these hazardous wastes to this day being dumped, do any of you wonder what may be in local waterways near you? I think many of us have heard of the Love Canal that is in the Niagara Falls region, and we all know how the chemicals from the water were to be toxic, and may have lead to mutations and various diseases. If this was found to have happened in the 1983, why is the government just now stepping in to clean up the hazardous wastes in Brooklyn?

Looking back on the first article I touched upon, I think that Liz Robbins did a good job at explaining what exactly was going on. I think because this issue is related in the United States, there isn’t this factor of first world depicting the third world. In many cases that we talk about in class we talk about the fact that many people assume things overseas are like what we have the America, but those always become problematic. I feel like because the article is from a journalist in New York City, close to where Brooklyn is, she may have had a lot of information right in the foreground, so she didn’t have to worry about becoming problematic in that aspect. Since the proposals were so recent, I feel like Robbins did enough research that she possibly could, and was willing to give times and dates to the community to when the discussion for them would occur.

I also liked that the fact that the same day another reporter from the New York Times posted about the Environmental Protection Agencies proposal towards the canal. Both of these articles were really similar, however you can see two different writing styles. Based off of the comparison between the two articles, you can either decided that both journalist gave the citizens the correct information, or they were did a great job at hiding some of the issues that the Federal Government may or may not be hiding.

http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/04/on-our-radar-dredging-the-gowanus-canal/ http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/05/nyregion/epa-announces-proposals-to-clean-gowanus-canal.html?_r=1&ref=waterpollution http://www.riverkeeper.org/campaigns/stop-polluters/gowanus-canal/ http://toxics.usgs.gov/definitions/napls.html

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2 Responses to ‘Black Mayonnaise’

  1. I really liked your questioning of why certain areas are chosen to be cleaned up while others aren’t.

    I’m from Brooklyn, and I can tell you first hand that there were many people that fought to have the canal cleaned up. There were massive amounts of information that was being spread around and lots of public support. In addition, there were also financial gains behind it; for example, metropolitan areas and specifically areas that have gained a significant amount of wealth in the past few decades tend to have more support from corporations that are more likely to side with members of the community in order to promote themselves.

    Smaller towns however, don’t always have this luxury. There are canals and other waterways that continue to be hazardous all around the state and country. I’m almost certain that there are members of those communities that have no idea because of the lack of information that is available to them.

  2. ayatnieves says:

    Interesting analysis of the American institution of Journalism, journalist like to skew the truth. On that same note cleaning up ecological disasters is costly, you can win them all and they should be decided on a case by case basis. With that said we need to reevaluate our living patterns, and re- think our current trends. Drudging rivers can cause many issues within itself, Laissez Faire, some things just need to be let go.

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