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Clinton calls for further Newtown Creek cleanup

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) received a new request to conduct testing that would determine if hotspots along Newtown Creek, one of North America’s most polluted waterways, would be eligible for a federal cleanup.
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, who filed the request on Wednesday, August 13, hopes that testing these Creek sites, two in Queens and two in Brooklyn, would eventually lead to the entire waterway receiving a cleanup through the federal Superfund program.
This program allows federal authorities to clean up hazardous waste sites immediately and bring to justice the parties responsible for contamination.
“For years, the residents in the vicinity of Newtown Creek have been forced to live, work and play with toxic fumes in the air and contaminated water, soil and sediment on the ground,” Clinton said in her appeal to the EPA. “This exposure has led to community concern about potential pockets of serious illness,” Clinton added.
The locations Clinton proposed for Superfund designation are among the most severely contaminated Creek sites, said Ben Kobren, a Clinton spokesperson. All four sites, which include Phelps Dodge in Maspeth and Quanta Resources in Long Island City, contain toxic substances such as heavy metals and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
Human exposure to PCBs can lead to changes in blood and urine that may indicate liver damage, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. PCBs are also known to cause cancer in lab rats, Department studies revealed.
A copper smelting facility was operated from 1920 to 1983 at the 44-acre Maspeth site, Phelps Dodge, which is located on 42-02 56th Road. While Phelps Dodge has removed some toxic materials from the site, more work remains to be done, said Basil Seggos, chief investigator at Riverkeeper, an organization that focuses on protecting and cleaning the city’s waterways.
At the other Queens location proposed for Superfund designation, on 37-80 Review Avenue, Quanta Resources operated a waste oil processing facility between 1960 and 1982, according to Clinton.
The two-acre Quanta Resources has also undergone some remediation, but further action is needed, Clinton said.
A month before the senator made her Superfund request about the four hotspots, Congressmembers Anthony Weiner and Nydia Velazquez made the same appeal to federal authorities.
“It’s time for the EPA to acknowledge what the people who live here already know: the contamination of Newtown Creek is nothing short of a human tragedy,” Velazquez explained.
“I greatly appreciate Senator Clinton lending her powerful voice to the coalition we’ve created to clean up Newtown Creek. A designation by the federal government will go a long way,” said Councilmember Eric Gioia, a co-plaintiff in a pending suit against Exxon Mobil, the party responsible for the Greenpoint oil spill.
Covering an area of over 55 acres, the spill was discovered in 1978 and found to be one and a half times larger than the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska.
So far about 9 million gallons of oil have been cleaned up at the creek, but estimates indicate that it will take until at least 2026 to complete the waterway’s remediation.

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