Opening the 'Superfund' Can of Worms

The EPA's proposal to list the Gowanus Canal as a Superfund site is getting mixed reactions from nearby residents and officials: some see the designation as a development-halting stigma, others as quite the opposite.

"Experts on contaminated sites said that a Superfund listing typically stirs contradictory emotions. On one hand, some people who live nearby may feel demoralized and even frightened by the finding of serious contamination and worry about its impact on real estate values; on the other, some are often relieved to get a firm commitment to clean up the toxic substances in their midst.

'It's very common to have the division between those who see it as terrible and those who see it as an opportunity,' said Kris Wernstedt, an associate professor of urban affairs and planning at Virginia Tech's Alexandria campus who specializes in Superfund and brownfield issues.

Studies have shown that property values decline after a Superfund listing but rebound after the cleanup, sometimes to far higher levels, he said.

The proposed designation has put Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who has championed a greener New York, in the odd position of opposing the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which requested the Superfund listing for the canal."

Full Story: On the Gowanus Canal, Fear of Superfund Stigma

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