The agreement, which was announced last week, allows for the first phase of the Superfund cleanup of Newtown Creek, the main component of the agreement being an investigation into the contamination of the creek and a study that will outline options to clean up the contamination.
Under the direction of the EPA, the six parties – the Phelps Dodge Refining Corporation; Texaco, Inc.; BP Products North America Inc.; National Grid NY; ExxonMobil Oil Corporation (all united under the Newtown Creek group) and the City of New York – will conduct the remedial investigation to determine the extent of the pollution and the nature of the pollutants, while assessing the risk to human health and the environment.
According to the EPA, the investigation will begin later this summer and is expected to take several years to complete.
The investigation will begin with an analysis of the contamination of the creek’s sediment, surface water and surrounding air. After this is complete, the EPA will oversee an analysis to develop and assess a full range of potential options for moving forward and cleaning up the contamination.
“I am thrilled that the EPA announced the first phase of Superfund cleanup of the Newtown Creek,” said Assemblyman Joseph Lentol. “For years, many people never believed that the North Brooklyn waterfront could be reclaimed – and look at it now.
“I am convinced that with the right conviction Newtown Creek will be renewed and that it will ultimately spur creative economic growth for our North Brooklyn communities and New York City in general,” he added.
On the Queens side of the creek, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney lauded the action to get the waterway clean again.
“This agreement is a vital step toward finally cleaning up Newtown Creek,” she said in a statement. “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.”
The agreement also requires that the six parties pay the EPA $750,000 for the agency’s previous work at Newtown Creek and reimburse the agency for oversight costs for both the investigation and the study.
The EPA also anticipates that it will identify additional parties responsible for the contamination in Newtown Creek.
“Newtown Creek is one of the most polluted urban water bodies in the country, and EPA is committed to making sure this waterway receives a thorough cleanup,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck.
The creek has been home to industries such as oil refineries, petrochemical plants and glue factories, which dumped a vast array of pollutants into the waterway from both sides of the creek.
In September 2010, the EPA designated Newtown Creek as a Superfund site after its water was tested by the agency and found to harbor harmful substances, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), potentially harmful contaminants that can easily evaporate into the air.
An important part of the Superfund cleanup process involves regularly updating and involving the community. Later this summer, the EPA will hold a meeting to discuss the Superfund process with the Brooklyn and Queens communities that border Newtown Creek, and begin developing a community advisory group.