New York

Columbia Students Tour Gowanus Canal Superfund Site

Last month, the Class of 2023 at Columbia University’s MPA Environmental Science and Policy program experienced a unique, guided tour of the Gowanus Canal Superfund site. The group learned firsthand from the Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus (FROGG) tour guides and Professors Steven Chillrud and Michael Musso.

Considered one of the most contaminated sites in the country, the Gowanus canal site was added to the Superfund National Priorities List in 2010. Since then, major efforts have been made to recover the area. The FROGG representatives have been involved in the remedy efforts throughout the years, and the Columbia students greatly benefited by hearing the guides’ personal perspectives on the progress taking place over the last decade.

Built in the 1800s, the Gowanus canal was used to transport industrial materials. Chemical plants, paper mills, and gas plants were stationed along the canal. To this day, sanitary waste, sewage, excess rainwater, and industrial toxins all pass through the canal. The result is a collection of serious pollutants in the area.

In addition to hearing about the history and observing the cleanup progress, the Columbia students also learned about FROGG’s role in the effort. Together with Voices of Gowanus and local residents, they rallied against rezoning plans to build new apartment complexes in the area. They noted the hazardous effects this would have on health and the environment.

Despite the long road ahead, it is encouraging to recognize the efforts so many are putting in to ensure our wellbeing and health. If you’d like to learn more or get involved, visit


James Allenby is the editor of Gowanus Lounge, bringing to his position a vast background on New York, and especially Brooklyn history, culture and lifestyle. Born and bred in the heart of "the County of Kings" James Allenby knows what it means to be a Brooklynite, and imparts this meaning at all times to his readers. Contact James at info(at)