Newtown Creek is a Superfund site

More than a century’s worth of sludge and gunk is set to be evicted from the murky bottom of Newtown Creek, thanks to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to place the waterway on the Superfund National Priorities List.

“The toxic pollution in Newtown Creek is more than a century in the making,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck. “EPA is placing Newtown Creek on the Superfund list to ensure the creek receives a thorough cleanup.”

The designation of “Superfund Status” triggers a lengthy process to clean the long neglected watery border between Queens and Brooklyn. First, the site will undergo stabilization, which includes a one-year cleanup to stop any immediate threats to the community; this could mean erecting a security fence or repairing a hazardous waste storage unit.

Then, the EPA will perform a comprehensive investigation of the site, analyze cleanup options and develop a plan to clean the site. The EPA will either force responsible parties to clean the site or simply do it themselves, based on the results of their investigation. Early estimates have the process taking as long as 8-11 years from start to finish.

The Newtown Creek oil spill, rivaling that of the Exxon Valdez, occurred in 1978 and has been found across 55 acres, seeping into the creek and settling under homes and businesses in the area. That major spill, plus a century of heavy industrial activity, has made the creek arguably the most polluted waterway in the city.

Enck said that the pollution in the waterway must be eradicated in order to maintain and guarantee the health of both residents and the ecosystem at large.

“Newtown Creek is a key urban waterway, which provides recreational and economic resources to many communities,” said Enck. “Throughout the investigation and cleanup, we will work closely with the communities along the creek to achieve a revitalization of this heavily-contaminated urban waterway.”


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