Envisioning the Future Waters of the United States

on the Gowanus Canal


Behind my studio in Gowanus, Brooklyn America's water crisis flows by endlessly in a kind of toxic splendor. The chemicals that are responsible for the toxic flow are cancerous polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls and heavy metals, including mercury, lead and copper that are found at high levels in the sediment in the Canal. Untreated human feces also flow down this body of water which eventually empties out into New York’s Upper Bay and then the Atlantic Ocean.

In 1849 the Gowanus, then known as a creek, was depend and it eventually became the commercial canal that we presently know. By the end of the 19th century it was overrun by sewage and runoff from fossil fuel industrial producers that expanded along the shores of the Gowanus. Coal, coal-gas, and oil brought additional waste to the Gowanus—outdated pollutants that the Trump administration is advocating this nation to return to for its energy consumption.

 On Thursday, September 12, 2019 the Trump administration eviscerated Obama-era clean water regulations that limited pollutants in this nation’s bodies of water, known as the Waters of the United States rule. The most immediate effect of Trump’s destruction of the Obama-era rules is that polluters will no longer require a permit to discharge toxic substances into streams and wetlands. And, as just across the Upper Bay citizens of Newark are confronted by their own water crisis, we can only expect to see more of Trump's toxins in the veins of our children and the rest of this nation's citizenry. With the Trump administration promoting more polluting cars and trucks, it can be expected that run off from those vehicles will continue to flow into our waters creating the equivalent of a major oil spill drop by drop.

 After nearly 2 decades of deadly environmental practice on the Gowanus, things were beginning to turn around. In 2010 the Canal was designated as a Superfund site. Trump’s destruction of Obama’s rules will not change that designation, however as the untreated feces flow down the canal we can expect the few remaining pristine bodies of water that we still have to look more like the Gowanus Canal than the pure sources of life that they are—literally making this a shithole country of the 45th president's making.