At low tide, oil permeates to the surface of the Gowanus Canal sometimes so thick that it gives the appearance of a hard surface. As the oil moves in the tidal waterway, the sunlight gleams the colors as it changes shape constantly. "Gowanus Swirls" was like a living organism as it floated by. I have photographed Brooklyn's "Lavendar Lake" for over thirty years, my long term project as the waterway gentrifies from a polluted industrial wasteland to an EPA Superfund site that developers are salivating for.
The oil slicks, caused by the coal tar and oil seeping to the surface, are part of the waste that flowed into the canal as early as 1858, and by the 1880’s the waterway had gained the moniker “Lavendar Lake” for its odorous qualities.
The current cost of the overall EPA Superfund cleanup plan for the 1.7 mile canal is estimated to be over $1.5 billion, and the entire project won’t be completed until mid-2023. Located in one of the densest population centers in America, the Gowanus Canal is situated between the high-end Brooklyn brownstone neighborhoods of Park Slope and Carroll Gardens.
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