A noxious gas and oil spill at Paerdegat Basin that multiple government agencies are scrambling to stanch and clean up has left nearby residents wondering if their health is in jeopardy.
More than 1,000 gallons of an “oily water residue” — which could fill about 15 bath tubs, but only six inches of an average-sized swimming pool — seeped into the Basin last Thursday as National Grid worked on a retired gas main. The state Department of Environmental Conservation, the city’s Department of Environmental Protection, and the United States Coast Guard are in the process of cleaning the spill, but residents who have complained about a foul odor coming off the basin since last Thursday wonder if the damage has already been done.
“I was little worried about what I’ve been breathing in for the past few days,” said long-time Bergen Beach resident Steve Collins. “I didn’t even open the windows and the smell was still seeping into the house. It was bad.”
Clean up crews have placed barriers known as hard booms at the mouth of Paerdegat Basin, which feeds into the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, as well as basin marinas to stop the oil spill from spreading. Between 1,000 and 1,500 gallons of oily water had been pumped out of the basin as of Monday afternoon, a National Grid spokesman said.
It remained unclear how the spill will affect Jamaica Bay or the Wildlife Refuge, but some level of destruction is inevitable, Coast Guard officials admit.
“Anytime there’s an oil spill it will have a negative impact on the environment,” said US Coast Guard Petty Officer Erik Swanson. “That’s why we’re working to make sure it gets cleaned up as quickly as possible
In addition to any environmental damage, Swanson said that the hulls of the 130 boats harbored in Paerdegat Basin will need to be cleaned to prevent the spread of the noxious oils.
Boaters are being allowed in and out of Paerdegat Basin, but are required to submit their vessels to an inspection to determine if the boat is clean enough to sail out of the basin. If it isn’t, contractors from Miller Environmental will attempt to clean the ships and schooners.
“If they can do the cleaning on the spot, they will,” Swanson said.
Investigators are still trying to determine if National Grid caused the spill. If the energy provider is responsible, the company will be held liable for cleanup costs, officials say.
The amount of oil leaked into Paerdegat Basin is a miniscule when compared to the Exxon oil spill of 2007, when between 17–30 million gallons of crude oil went into Greenpoint’s Newtown Creek.Reach reporter Colin MIxson at cmixson@cn