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The Gowanus Canal was roughly two-mile creek in Brooklyn, New York. Though originally a tidal inlet of navigable creeks in saltwater marshland, full of fish, mollusks, and other wildlife, the Gowanus was incorporated into the growing urban fabric of Brooklyn at the turn of the 19th century. As the population grew and industry became more and more important,

the creeks and marshland were dredged, drained and expanded, forming a canal.
Goowanus1

The Gowanus Canal, filled with toxic pollution

The Gowanus became an economic hub, as factories and warehouses sprung up on its shores to utilize the waterway for maritime shipping. Around the time that World War I was fought, the Gowanus was the busiest commercial canal in the United States, with roughly six million tons of cargo passing through annually. All of the traffic, combined with domestic sewage, industrial wastewater, and urban runoff left the canal extremely polluted. Because of the way the canal was initially built, with only one opening, the pollution issues were exacerbated further. It was originally thought that the tides would be enough to flush the waterway daily, but that proved to not be the case, as fresh water from the harbor failed to enter into the Gowanus with regularity.

By the early 2000s, the canal was designated a Superfund site by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Water quality studies have found the concentration of oxygen in the canal to be just 1.5 parts per million, well below the minimum 4 parts per million needed to sustain life due to the presence of cement, oil, mercury, lead, multiple volatile organic compounds, PCBs, coal tar, and other contaminants in the water. The presence of the elevated Gowanus Expressway over the water did little to help things, depositing tons of toxic emissions into the air and water beneath. According to some estimates, the layer of toxic sediment in the water averaged ten feet thick, with some spots being even thicker. Eventually, the water- if it could even be called that- became opaque, obstructing sunlight.

The City of New York, the State of New York, and the federal government made plans to clean up the waterway numerous times, but the projects were never a high priority for any of the involved parties. Local advocacy and environmental awareness groups sometimes scored small victories, but the toxic stew remained despite their efforts. By the middle of the 21st century, with the issues rocking the United States, the political will of the government to clean up the Gowanus Canal was virtually non-existent. When the Great War ended, there was no more government.

The Gowanus Canal was roughly two-mile creek in Brooklyn, New York. Though originally a tidal inlet of navigable creeks in saltwater marshland, full of fish, mollusks, and other wildlife, the Gowanus was incorporated into the growing urban fabric of Brooklyn at the turn of the 19th century. As the population grew and industry became more and more important, the creeks and marshland were dredged, drained and expanded, turning the area into its present form, a canal.

The Gowanus became an economic hub, as factories and warehouses sprung up on its shores to utilize the waterway for maritime shipping. Around the time that World War I was fought, the Gowanus was the busiest commercial canal in the United States, with roughly six million tons of cargo passing through annually. All of the traffic, combined with domestic sewage, industrial wastewater, and urban runoff left the canal extremely polluted. Because of the way the canal was initially built, with only one opening, the pollution issues were exacerbated further. It was originally thought that the tides would be enough to flush the waterway daily, but that proved to not be the case, as fresh water from the harbor failed to enter into the Gowanus with regularity.

By the early 2000s, the canal was designated a Superfund site by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Water quality studies have found the concentration of oxygen in the canal to be just 1.5 parts per million, well below the minimum 4 parts per million needed to sustain life due to the presence of cement, oil, mercury, lead, multiple volatile organic compounds, PCBs, coal tar, and other contaminants in the water. The presence of the elevated Gowanus Expressway over the water did little to help things, depositing tons of toxic emissions into the air and water beneath. According to some estimates, the layer of toxic sediment in the water averaged ten feet thick, with some spots being even thicker. Eventually, the water- if it could even be called that- became opaque, obstructing sunlight.

The City of New York, the State of New York, and the federal government made plans to clean up the waterway numerous times, but the projects were never a high priority for any of the involved parties. Local advocacy and environmental awareness groups sometimes scored small victories, but the toxic stew remained despite their efforts. By the middle of the 21st century, with the issues rocking the United States, the political will of the government to clean up the Gowanus Canal was virtually non-existent. When the Great War ended, there was no more government.

Goowanus2

A wastelander trudges into the goo...

The waters of the canal were heavily irradiated by direct nuclear radiation as well as from nuclear fallout. The added contaminant into the already contaminated water had an odd effect on it. Already green and opaque, the waters of the Gowanus Canal became viscous goo. Even more, the goo began exhibiting strange side effects for that which came into contact with it.

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