DEC pushes for Newtown Creek cleanup

A quicker and more complete cleanup is needed at Newtown Creek, a spokesperson from the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) told the City Council.
“A more comprehensive approach that includes investigation and remediation of dissolved petroleum constituents and soil contamination is needed, as well as expediting the recovery of the liquid petroleum,” testified Suzanne Mattei, the DEC’s Regional Director for New York State, on Monday, November 26.
However, Mattei also reported that air quality around the site, the largest spill in U.S. history, has been deemed clear in a recent round of testing. Between 2006 and 2007, the DEC in conjunction with the state Department of Health (DOH) tested 52 homes in Greenpoint and found no evidence of “vapor intrusion.”
“The oil spill, of course, still needs to be cleaned up. There is evidence that the oil has seeped into Newtown Creek. Also, while the fact that 52 homes did not show oil spill vapor intrusion is encouraging, the spill still poses a continuing concern that must be addressed,” Mattei told councilmembers during the hearing on cleanup progress at the site.
Following the meeting, Councilmember Eric Gioia blasted ExxonMobil for skipping the hearing. Since 1990, the oil giant has removed nine million gallons of an estimated 17 million dumped in the 3.5-mile waterway; however ExxonMobil has estimated that it needs another 25 years to fully cleanup the site and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimated in September that original amount could have been as much as 30 million gallons.
“To not appear, to refuse to show their face and answer questions, further proves that theirs is a strategy of obstruction and delay. ExxonMobil continues to do the bare minimum, and to try as hard as it can to escape public scrutiny. They are one of the most profitable companies in the world, raking in billions each year, and yet getting them to speed up the cleanup process - which currently has no deadline - has been like pulling teeth,” Gioia said.
However, an ExxonMobil spokesperson said that the oil company sent information packets to all of the city councilmembers about their recent efforts.
“Due to pending litigation, of which several of the councilmembers are plaintiffs, we didn’t feel that it was appropriate to be present at the hearing,” said Barry Woods from ExxonMobil.
“That covered all of the activities that were underway here,” Woods said, referring to the info packets.
Woods said the oil company hopes that 10 new recovery wells, which are being dug near the spill’s center in Greenpoint, will double the daily recovery rate of oil from the site.
“We anticipate by the end of 2008 when these new wells will be fully operational that the recovery rate will range between 2,000 and 2,500 gallons per day as a rough estimate,” Woods said.

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