Waste Deep in the Big Muddy: Reps Seek Superfund for Newtown Creek


Green Brooklyn applauds Representatives Anthony Weiner’s and Nydia Velazquez’s letter to the EPA, which asks the agency to “conduct preliminary tests at Newtown Creek” with an eye toward getting Superfund money to clean up what is generally referred to as the Greenpoint Oil Spill.

As Green Brooklyn’s map shows, there’s a lot of oil and oil-related waste in the Creek, and in the soil (and, as toxic vapors, in the air) of neighboring Greenpoint. And it’s been there for decades.

The New York Times reports, “Various tests have estimated that 17 to 30 million gallons of petroleum were spilled in the creek and surrounding area during nearly a century and a half of industrial activity” — much of it by Exxon Mobil and its corporate precursor, Standard Oil. The State has a suit pending against Exxon Mobil, as do some citizens, but we’ll all probably be long dead, with or without the assistance of pollutants, before anything comes of those. Superfund seems a quicker path to relief, or at least some waste-disposal jobs.

The Creek’s massive pollution gets noticed by the press from time to time — there was a big story in New York magazine just last year — but after each brief spasm of outrage most Greenpointers shrug it off and go on with their lives. Certainly the big slick hasn’t kept rich models from moving into the neighborhood, nor local home prices from skyrocketing.

Perhaps, with City crime at historic lows, the presence of powerful contaminants adds a thrilling hint of danger to the otherwise peaceful district. Maybe real estate is such an overwhelming force in New York nowadays that it trumps personal safety. Or maybe the pierogies are that good. Still, people hunting houses up by McGolrick Park might want to consider a finding from an EPA report on Spill-related gases examined by Adam Klasfeld in Williamsburg’s Block magazine. “The E.P.A. report states that vapor concentrations in ‘some commercial establishments’ were found ‘above the Upper Explosive Limit,'” Klasfeld wrote. “Simply put, that means there was too much vapor for an explosion to ignite.”