Rep. Maloney Hails EPA Announcement That Newtown Creek Testing Will Start in Late Summer
Queens, NY – U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D Queens, Manhattan), Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, other local representatives, and members of the western Queens community met with EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck and other EPA officials today to press for the expedited cleanup of Newtown Creek. At today’s meeting, members of the community had the opportunity to ask the EPA questions about the proposed cleanup and express their concerns.At the meeting, Regional Administrator Enck announced that the EPA recently finished negotiating an agreement with 6 Potentially Responsible Parties (or PRPs), that would require the PRPs to conduct what is known as a Remedial Investigation/Feasibility Study under EPA's oversight. This study will examine the specific factors surrounding Newtown Creek and connecting tributaries, determine the nature of the pollutants in the creek, assess risk to human health and the environment, and evaluate potential cleanup methods. According to the EPA, this agreement will most likely be finalized by early July and field work will commence in late summer. Testing of the creek could stretch as long as 5-7 years before cleanup work begins.
“This agreement is a vital step toward finally cleaning up Newtown Creek. I am so pleased that by late summer, the EPA will begin the environmental testing required to move the project forward,” Maloney said. “For generations, Newtown Creek has been one of the most polluted waterways in the country. Restoring the health of both sides of Newtown Creek will give residents of Queens and Brooklyn improved access to the waterfront and make our neighborhoods healthier places to live.”
“I am delighted that this long-awaited and long-term cleanup took another step forward with today’s announcement,” said Borough President Marshall. “More than 300,000 New Yorkers live within a one-mile radius of the creek and thousands of businesses are in the surrounding area. Thousands of new apartments are planned for a nearby site and a comprehensive effort is needed to restore this longstanding waterway. Congresswoman Maloney has pursued this cleanup effort relentlessly and we are grateful for today’s announcement by the EPA.”
Since the mid-1800s, the shores of Newtown Creek have been home to industries that spewed a staggering array of pollutants into the waterway from both sides of the creek. More than 50 refineries were located along its banks, including oil refineries, petrochemical plants, fertilizer and glue factories, sawmills, and lumber and coal yards. The creek was crowded with commercial vessels, including large boats bringing in raw materials and fuel and taking out oil, chemicals and metals. In addition to the industrial pollution that resulted from all of this activity, the city began dumping raw sewage directly into the water in 1856.
In late September, the EPA designated Newtown Creek as a Superfund site. This designation will allow the EPA to conduct extensive testing to determine the nature and extent of pollution in the creek and to formulate a plan to clean it up.
The EPA reports that potentially responsible parties include major oil companies, such as BP America, Exxon Mobil, and Texaco, and the City of New York. These and other potentially responsible parties will be paying for the remedial investigation and feasibility study for the site in the near future.
Congress established the Superfund Program to locate, investigate, and clean up the most hazardous sites nationwide.
According to tests the EPA has already conducted at Newtown Creek, “potentially harmful contaminants such as pesticides, metals and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) have been detected in Newtown Creek along with volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are potentially harmful contaminants that can easily evaporate into the air.”