Saki Knafo writes at Huffington Post:
For the creatures that inhabit New York’s waterways and the people who care about them, the week started off with some encouraging news. On Monday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that it had finalized plans to clean up the Gowanus Canal, a festering, toxic wound in the middle of Brooklyn.
Then came the government shutdown and the EPA’s announcement that it was sending home 94 percent of its workers. Around the country, work stopped at hundreds of toxic “Superfund” sites — contaminated areas that the federal government has designated for cleanup. In Brooklyn, the efforts stopped before they even began.
“All the good news and good will we had on Monday has kind of been put on hold,” said Phillip Musegaas, the Hudson River program director of Riverkeepers, a New York environmental group.
The Gowanus Canal is one of the most polluted waterways in America. Several feet of toxic sludge line the bottom, and a network of sewer pipes spews filth into the sluggish currents after it rains. People have been joking about the Gowanus since at least the early 1900s, when locals sarcastically dubbed it “Lavender Lake,” after the fragrant purple flower, a perfume staple.