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Now the feds want to make Newtown Creek a Superfund site!

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The Environmental Protection Agency revealed on Wednesday that it is considering classifying North Brooklyn’s fetid Newtown Creek as a Superfund site — a designation that would clear the way for a federal clean-up of the filthy waterway.

Mere weeks before the agency will finalize its controversial plans to designate the Gowanus Canal as a Superfund site, the EPA announced its proposal to add the vile stream — which separates Greenpoint from Queens — to the same short list of polluted locations.

If the creek is approved as a Superfund site, the agency will have the ability to charge polluters and the owners of polluted land for the clean-up, and it will gain access to taxpayer money.

“Newtown Creek is one of the most grossly contaminated waterways in the country,” said EPA Acting Regional Administrator George Pavlou. “By listing the creek, EPA can focus on doing the extensive sampling needed to figure out the best way to address the contamination and see the work through.” The 3.8-mile-long waterway has been an industrial hub for more than 150 years.

Beneath its banks resides a 30-million gallon oil spill that is three times the size of the Exxon Valdez disaster. Researchers attribute the massive oil plume to slow leaks from numerous industrial landowners including, among others, ChevronTexaco and ExxonMobil — which is in the midst of its own remediation program for a part of the spill.

Recent samples of Newtown Creek sediment and water — which, like the Gowanus, is flooded with billion gallons of raw sewage every year — reveal that the creek is contaminated with “pesticides, metals, polychlorinated biphenyls, and volatile organic compounds which are potentially harmful” and “can easily evaporate into the air,” according to EPA researchers.

The decision to seek a Superfund designation for the Newtown Creek comes in the wake of the agency’s contentious Superfund plans for the Gowanus Canal — though insiders said this plan would not be as divisive because, unlike the Gowanus, the land along the Newtown Creek’s banks isn’t being coveted for residential construction.

“There is not quite the pressure from residential developers like Toll Brothers that you see on the Gowanus, which is driving a lot of the skepticism against listing the Gowanus Canal,” said Phillip Musegaas of Riverkeeper — an organization that has long fought to clean the Newtown Creek.

It remains to be seen how the local politicians and even the city itself will react to the designation — though councilmembers and the mayor have strongly opposed the EPA’s plans for the Gowanus.

Industrial businesses on the banks of the canal including, among others, ExxonMobil, could be tapped for the clean-up, but a spokeswoman from the fuel giant said the corporation is “prepared to work cooperatively with the Environmental Protection Agency, the state, the city and all other potentially responsible parties to address the situation in Newtown Creek.”

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Reader Feedback

Matt from Carroll Gardens says:
It's disgusting that the Newtown designation would be easier than the listing for the similarly polluted Gowanus simply because there don't seem to be any developers coveting the land! The EPA is supposed to decide these things based on scientific findings, but somehow our Mayor thinks it's appropriate to send Chaz Halloway down to Washington for over a week (so far!) to continuously lobby the head of the EPA for the so-called "City Plan" for the Gowanus! So now our taxpayer money is being squandered on behalf of developers who think you can just clean little pieces of a huge brownfield!

Where's Bill Thompson on all this? If he wants to distinguish himself from our hypocritical autocratic emperor--I mean Mayor--all he has to do is speak out in favor of the Gowanus listing, the Newtown Creek listing and against the Atlantic Yards!
Sept. 24, 2009, 7:41 am
anon from carroll gardens says:
Well, at least the City is now openly admitting that this is about developer money. Even if the EPA caves to the oppressive political pressure of Bloomberg the canal will remain on the list as a potential superfund site and could be designated as a superfund site at a later time or if the City decides it can't do the job. I am sure the new owners of luxury condos would just love that.

Cas Holloway and Friends should be just as committed to cleaning up the Newtown Creek as they purport to be when it comes to the canal. I can't wait for the spin on this.
Sept. 24, 2009, 8:54 am
Evelyn from Greenpoint says:
It's about time! Between the sewage treatment plant and the industrial oil companies lining that Canal, if you are unfortunate enough catch the wrong gust of wind in Northern Greenpoint there's a great chance you might loose your lunch as a result. And it being such a family friendly neighborhood, there are all these children and small pets living in Greenpoint and playing in potentially contaminated soil every day.

It pains me to watch Bloomberg wage war against my choice to be a stupid smoker all in the name of public health, and then turn around and oppose placing the Gowanus Canal on the Superfund list. This man has his priorities all backwards, and has become such an unbearable hypocrite that he has absolutely lost my support in his bid for what should still be an illegal third term.

Boo Bloomberg. Matt above was right, it's time for Thompson to step in and prove that there are other capable politicians out there who can clean up our schools AND our waterways all at once!
Sept. 24, 2009, 1:54 pm
gowanee from gowanus says:
The fact that the Gowanus was nominated as a Superfund site before Newtown Creek SPEAKS VOLUMES about how grossly toxic and polluted a health hazard Gowanus is. Newtown Creek is NOTORIOUS! Even people in the Midwest I have visited heard about Newtown Creek.

Yeah, let's see the city spin this one - are they going to have an alternate plan for Newtown Creek, too? They have NO EXPERIENCE with the kind of cleanup Gowanus and Newtown Creek need. ONLY THE EPA CAN DO IT. And if the City does NOT propose an alternate plan for Newtown Creek, it will show them for what and who they are. Just out to do the developers' bidding.
The City keeps saying they can do it faster. That this is the real reason for their wanting to do it. Yeah, right.
Sept. 24, 2009, 5:26 pm
Rob from Fort Greene says:
Let's not be naive. It's only a matter of time before even Newtown Creek, or at least the parts of Greenpoint closest to it, are eyed by developers.
Oct. 6, 2009, 2:12 pm
hank from greenpoint says:
all the goverment has to do is fill in the tip of newtown creek and pump out the water and just watch where the oil etc. is comming from and let them clean it up. either fill up the waterway and make a land crossing or refil with east river when cleaned.
Jan. 20, 2010, 11:21 pm

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