By Jeremy Walsh
The fight to get the highly polluted Newtown Creek declared a federal Superfund site has picked up a high-profile supporter: U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.).
“New Yorkers living in communities near Newtown Creek have suffered long enough,” Clinton said in a statement. “We know that there are dangerous chemicals in the soil, water and air at sites around Newtown Creek. It's time to put the resources of the Superfund program to work to conduct additional tests at known contamination hotspots to see whether a federal cleanup should go forward.”
A Superfund designation would make the creek eligible for federal funding that could cover 90 percent of its cleanup.
In an Aug. 13 letter to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, Clinton, the U.S. Senate Superfund and Environmental Health Subcommittee chairwoman and a member of the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee, said that since many of the factories responsible for the pollution have been closed for decades, Superfund is the site's best hope.
Clinton's letter followed a similar request written last month by U.S. Reps. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills) and Nydia Velazquez (D-Ridgewood).
The creek, which separates western Queens from Brooklyn, is notorious for being the site of a massive oil spill believed to have started anywhere from 50 to 100 years ago. It was discovered by a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter in 1978 along the bank where Standard Oil once operated a refinery.
A 2007 study by the state Department of Environmental Conservation estimated the spill's size at between 17 million and 30 million gallons. A federal EPA study of the spill will be released next year.
ExxonMobil, the corporate descendant of Standard Oil, has agreed to clean up the spill, entering into two consent orders in 1990 with the DEC to remove petroleum from the ground underneath Greenpoint, Brooklyn.
Exxon has removed more than 9.5 million gallons of oil from the site so far, a spokesman, said.
Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.