By Philip Newman§
“It's shocking that Queens drinking water is threatened by spills that haven't been cleaned up for years and, adding insult to injury, innocent Queens families will be required to foot the bill,” said Schumer, appearing at former Citgo service station on Hempstead Avenue in Southeast Queens.The site is where methyl tertiary-butyl ether, a fuel additive known as MTBE, contaminated drinking water wells.Schumer announced his intention to filibuster against the energy bill already passed by the House, and now headed to the Senate if the MTBE provision is not removed.”The idea that we should let the companies whose product literally poisoned our groundwater get away free is so audacious that words fail to describe it,” Schumer said. “When my kids were 4 years old, they knew that if you make a mess, you clean it up”.The former Citgo station where Schumer spoke is directly adjacent to two public water supply wells. Two to three inches of gasoline were found at the northwest corner of the Citgo site and between six and seven inches nearby.Schumer said the MTBE levels in the gasoline are 26,000 times the amount needed to mandate a cleanup and yet the site remains contaminated.”The oil companies responsible for this mess refuse to foot the bill and if the energy bill that passed the House two weeks ago becomes law, they wouldn't be held accountable,” Schumer said.Schumer said the so-called “Safe Harbor” provision in the energy bill would make taxpayers in New York City and those all over the country pay the entire cost of a cleanup of MTBE, a potentially cancer-causing chemical first added to gasoline in the 1970s and in widespread use since the 1990s.”When gasoline containing MTBE was spilled or leaked out of underground storage tanks, it poisoned underground water systems, including those that serve southeast Queens,” Schumer said.The city's Department of Environmental Protection filed a case against the nation's largest petroleum refiners to recover the more than $300 million in damages to its Jamaica, groundwater well system. The action contends damages to the well system in Queens were caused by the MTBE that petroleum refiners used in their product.Federal Judge Shira Scheindlin ordered the case to be designated as a leading, or fast track case for the more than 115 lawsuits involved.Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.