Tag Archives: Newtown Creek

Newtown Creek Alliance talks cleanup with Ridgewood group


| editorial@ridgewoodtimes.com

TIMES NEWSWEEKLY/Photo courtesy of Newtown Creek Alliance

BY KELLY MARIE MANCUSO

The Newtown Creek Alliance (NCA) offered information about the polluted waterway’s ecology during an Earth Day meeting of the Ridgewood Democratic Club Thursday night.

NCA Program Manager Willis Elkins was joined by historian Mitch Waxman and Community Board 2 Environmental Committee Chair Dorothy Morehead to discuss the group’s ongoing improvement and preservation efforts at Newtown Creek.

The NCA was first established in 2002 with the central goal of refurbishing and protecting all 3.8 miles of the waterway, a federal Superfund site straddling the Brooklyn/Queens industrial border.

“We’re in support of maintaining its industrial use, we just want to make sure it’s maintaining a clean state,” Elkins said.

TIMES NEWSWEEKLY/Photo by Kelly Marie Mancuso

TIMES NEWSWEEKLY/Photo by Kelly Marie Mancuso

During the 18th and 19th centuries, Newtown Creek was a vibrant salt marsh ecosystem. By the 1950s, however, the creek was one of the busiest industrial waterways in the city. As a result, pollutants including chemicals, dyes, metals and petroleum were left behind.

In addition to industrial waste, one of the many challenges plaguing Newtown Creek is contamination from over 20 combined sewer overflow (CSO) pipes discharging sewage and stormwater into the creek. The nearly 450 citywide CSOs were originally designed to handle the surplus of rainwater entering the sewer system during storms.

According to Elkins, the East Branch CSO, located at Metropolitan Avenue, is one of the biggest pipes on the creek, discharging over 500 million gallons of sewage and untreated stormwater per year. The creek also contains many dead-end tributaries in which water tends to pool and stagnate, promoting bacterial growth.

The rise in bacteria levels from CSO output is responsible for low dissolved oxygen levels and poor water quality. In an attempt to raise oxygen levels, the city Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is in the process of constructing a complex aeration system designed to pump air into the creek.

The NCA has voiced staunch opposition to the $110 million dollar project, citing concerns over the possible health risks linked to aeration of the creek’s contaminated sediment.

“It’s only treating the symptom and not the actual cause of the bad water quality,” Elkins said. “It’s like putting a bubbler on your toilet and calling it clean water.”

The NCA partnered with a research group to conduct a series of air quality tests. According to Elkins, research showed higher levels of bacteria entering the air while the aeration system was in use. Despite these results, a consensus could not be reached between the NCA, DEP and other agencies regarding the impact on public health.

Elkins voiced support for natural solutions, including the use of cord grasses and “filter feeders” such as mussels and wild oysters to help improve dissolved oxygen levels in the creek. Green infrastructure improvements, such as the installation of bioswales slated for Maspeth, can also help absorb excess rainwater before it enters and the already overburdened sewer system.

Going forward, Elkins and the NCA hope to focus on the creek’s ecology by creating habitats for the many birds, fish, plants and mollusks that have returned in recent years. The NCA recently received a small grant from the Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund to construct a living dock to monitor wildlife. The 180-square-foot structure will feature milk crates filled with substrate that will act as a habitat for fish and invertebrates.

The NCA also partnered with LaGuardia Community College to install cord grass planters along industrial docks and bulkheads.

“It shows you can incorporate life into lifeless structures,” Elkins said.

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DEP open again to Newtown Creek access in Maspeth


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of DEP

The Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is looking to clear the air with Community Board 5 (CB 5) over its plans for a Newtown Creek aeration facility in industrial Maspeth.

During its February meeting, CB 5 panned the DEP’s revised proposal for the plant at 58-26 47th St., which includes machines designed to inject oxygen into the creek and reduce water pollution. The plans excluded previously promised public waterfront access space.

But in a letter sent to CB 5 Chairman Vincent Arcuri following the meeting, DEP Associate Commissioner of Public Affairs Eric D. Landau stated that the agency is open to creek-side access at the facility on the condition that nearby sites first develop their own waterfronts for public use.

“[The] DEP will further enhance the site with waterfront access, if and when nearby properties have developed publicly-accessible waterfront spaces — what the community board has described to us as a larger waterfront promenade,” Landau said in the letter that the Times Newsweekly obtained on Thursday.

The plans include a walkway leading from 47th Street to the water’s edge, then a path immediately adjacent to the creek.

At the February CB 5 meeting, Tom Smith of the Department of City Planning said the DEP was excused from a city waterfront access mandate at the location due to concerns over public safety.

Landau also stated the DEP would “install benches and trees along the sidewalk” outside the facility “to create a seating area for the community.”

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CB 5 blasts Maspeth creek aeration plant plan


| editorial@ridgewoodtimes.com

Rendering via DEP

BY KELLY MARIE MANCUSO

Revisions to the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) plans for a Newtown Creek aeration facility in Maspeth were panned by Community Board 5 members during the advisory body’s meeting this week.

The proposed aeration facility, located at 58-26 47th St. on the creek’s waterfront, would house a 70-foot by 40-foot aeration building equipped with two blowers, external transformers, ventilation and air conditioning units.

Air would be diffused along the length of a pipe from the facility into the creek in an effort to increase dissolved oxygen levels in the surrounding water and reduce pollution levels.

Ray Meshkati, accountable project manager for the Newtown Creek East Planned Aeration Project, was optimistic that the project would be approved. “We think that we should be able to place this on line sometime in 2018,” he stated.

Meshkati’s optimism, however, was met with sharp criticism from board members after it was announced that public access to the waterfront space was omitted from the updated plans.

“This board passed a resolution in 2013 asking the DEP to give us several options in terms of public waterfront access,” Land Use Committee chair Walter Sanchez said.

Board 5 chair Vincent Arcuri also expressed outrage and concern over the changes.

“I don’t like people, especially agency people, going back on what they said to us,” Arcuri said. “Gary [Giordano] and I met with the commissioner and out of that meeting a sketch was produced showing future dedicated space to the promenade. Why this final document comes out without that future space shown or dedicated is an insult to me, this board and the community.”

Tom Smith, a representative from the Department of City Planning, explained that the DEP was granted a mayoral override allowing for the omission of public access along the waterfront and proposed promenade area due to questions over public safety.

“The concern from the agency was that this area may have a safety and security issue,” Smith said. “This would not be a staffed facility at all hours of the day. There’s little pedestrian traffic and any waterfront access would be significantly removed from the street itself.”

DEP Director of Community Affairs Ibrahim Abdul-Matin echoed these concerns: “The understanding is that as the larger area, which is mostly an industrial area, develops, there is going to be a larger plan for the entire waterfront. I can’t comment as to how [public access] will fit into a larger plan until there’s a much more comprehensive look at that waterfront as it develops and changes.”

Board 5 member John Maier expressed similar concerns regarding the override of the original plan. “Public space will create energy and activity that’s not there now, but could be in the future,” he said. “I think to deny the public access is to deny the potential. That’s sad and unfortunate.”

The expansion plan also faced opposition from the local Newtown Creek Alliance. In a Feb. 11 letter, NCA Program Manager Willis Elkins petitioned the DEP and DEC for a delay in the project, citing concerns over habitat, wildlife and quality-of-life issues.

“We feel that the expansion should not advance without a serious re-evaluation of alternatives that can offer long-term solutions to improving water quality,” Elkins wrote.

The proposed expansion is part of a larger system of automatic air blowers and diffusers installed along the length of the creek. The first aeration facility, built along the English Kills near the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge, was completed in 2008.

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Bridge connecting Queens and Brooklyn waits for reconstruction plans


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

The plans to replace a ramshackle bridge over a toxic creek won’t be drawn up until 2016, officials said.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) plan for reconstruction of a 100-year-old bridge that connects Brooklyn and Queens won’t enter the planning phase for two more years, according to a DOT spokesman.

The Grand Street Bridge spans the Newtown Creeka federal Superfund siteand connects Gardner Avenue in Brooklyn and 47th street in Queens.

Built in 1903, the narrow bridge is a nominally two-way road that has required constant maintenance over the years. A reconstruction of the bridge would widen the bridge and also reinforce it to better withstand the weight of modern cars. Locals were skeptical.

“We’ve been through a design phase before. A lot of projects have been stalled for too long. And this project has been stalled for too long,” said Gary Giordano, district manager in Community Board 5, expressing skepticism about the department’s plans for reconstruction. He noted that the bridge on the Queens side is in Maspeth where there are many industrial manufacturing businesses.

And with the businesses comes a high volume of truck traffic that use the bridge everyday.

“This is a bridge that cannot accommodate two large vehicles going in opposite directions. It doesn’t accommodate today’s type of traffic,” Giordano said. The narrow bridge is only big enough for one truck to pass through at a time but since there are no traffic lights to alternate traffic, Giordano believes that the area is very dangerous.

The DOT promised to maintain the bridge while the agency plans to plan.

“The agency continues to monitor the structure and make any necessary short-term repairs prior to the start of this project,” a DOT spokeswoman said. “DOT will also continue to update local stakeholders, including the community boards, on any temporary closures required for repair work.”

 

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Greenpoint Avenue Bridge lanes closed one at a time Tuesday


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYC DOT

On Tuesday, between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) Division of Bridges will close one lane at a time in both directions on the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge over Newtown Creek (John Jay Byrne Bridge) for drain cleaning.

At least one lane will remain open to traffic at all times. The work may be rescheduled if necessary due to weather or other unforeseen circumstances.

 

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Newtown Creek sludge project nearing completion


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo by Jeff Stone

JEFF STONE

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is celebrating the end of a month-long project in Newtown Creek that, if successful, will eventually make the water running through Ridgewood, Maspeth and Greenpoint much more inviting.

DEP crews have been traveling through the contaminated creek since the end of March, cleaning up silt, industrial waste and untreated sewage overflow that has been left largely undisturbed since the 1970s. The project, which is expected to be fully complete by no later than the end of April, aims to make Newtown Creek passable for a new fleet of DEP sludge vessels that will transport wastewater from elsewhere in the city to a new facility deeper inland.

Sludge vessels can be seen six days a week traveling through the East and Hudson Rivers, transporting sludge (semi-solid material leftover from industrial wastewater or sewage treatment) to decontamination facilities. Those facilities then extract any harmful materials and dump the clean water back into rivers around the metro area.

Yet, despite its status as one of the most contaminated bodies of water in the city, Newtown Creek is not currently equipped with its own dewatering plant. Sludge from the area is transported through a pipeline under the East River to a wastewater treatment plant in Greenpoint. City officials hope to soon use that valuable Brooklyn real estate for affordable housing and a new park, but the first step in removing the treatment facility is cleaning Newtown Creek.

Step one, for the most part, is finished. Environmental officials said that barges will be taking their final trips through the area using sonar technology to ensure that a new fleet of sludge vessels will be able to travel through without incident.

“Most likely there will be a few spots where they have to touch up and lay a fresh layer of sand down,” a DEP representative said Friday. “The barge and dredge machinery will be on Newtown Creek for at least another week or so, but the majority of the work will be completed by this weekend.”

Before the project began last month, DEP officials and nearby residents were concerned that the stirred-up silt bed would omit a smell of rotten eggs into the spring air. The very notion was enough to prompt a flurry of social media activity from Queens and Brooklyn residents alike. None of the dire predictions came to pass, though, thanks to the crews’ round-the-clock reliance on air and water quality monitors.

“The fact that there’ve been two complaints and all of our monitoring indicates that we’re well within our acceptable limits, everything has gone smoothly,” the spokesman said.

Work at Newtown Creek is a symptom of a citywide effort to equip designated priority areas like Gowanus Canal, Jamaica Bay, Flushing Bay and the Bronx River with green infrastructure. The city will spend $2.4 billion over the next 20 years on treating wastewater and rain overflow before it enters New York’s waterways.

 

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Stalled Maspeth, Ridgewood, Middle Village transportation projects suffer more setbacks


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Follow me @liamlaguerre

 

Ridgewood residents were hopeful that reconstruction of the Metropolitan Avenue Bridge would finally start this spring, but it’s been delayed again.

The path, which is elevated over LIRR tracks where Metropolitan Avenue intersects Fresh Pond Road, carries major truck traffic and is long overdue for repairs. In 2007, city officials informed Community Board (CB) 5 it was in danger of collapse.

Financial troubles delayed its original reconstruction start date back in 2009, and at a recent CB 5 Transportation Committee meeting, it was said that it’s been pushed back yet again, because the project has to undergo review and redesign.

The bridge is just one of a few major transportation projects, together worth about $115 million, in CB 5 that just keep getting delayed. The Metropolitan Avenue Bridge alone could be a $25 million project, CB 5 District Manager Gary Giordano said.

“You are talking about a lot of money for one district,” Giordano said. “We keep bringing them up at our transportation meeting because we believe that they need to be done and want don’t want to forget about them.”

Developers are now considering building an abutment, eliminating one track under the bridge, to help the building process.

There is also the Grand Street Bridge project, which connects Maspeth to Brooklyn over Newtown Creek.

The 111-year-old bridge is so narrow that it can’t support two-way traffic, although it is a two-way span, with all the big rigs and city buses that traverse it. The new bridge would cost about $50 million.

The plan for a new bridge was ready to go when Sandy struck in 2012 and flooded the area. Now plans are being redesigned to meet new flood regulations.

Besides the bridges, major street rebuilding plans have also been set back.

The Wyckoff Avenue Reconstruction Project, estimated to cost about $20 million, was supposed to start during the summer of 2010, but has been pushed back to 2026, according to the city Department of Design and Construction (DDC).

The project would give Wyckoff Avenue new sewer lines, new water mains to replace the 70-year old ones, as well as a new concrete base on the roadway, new sidewalks and new curbing from Flushing Avenue to Cooper Avenue.

The community has been waiting on a similar project in south Middle Village for about two decades. The area from 73rd Place to 80th Street, between Metropolitan Avenue to Cooper Avenue, are due for new sidewalks, sewer lines, new water mains, signage and street lights, estimated to cost about $20 million. The project has a due date of 2022, according to the DDC.

The projects are pushed back because the city keeps putting funding to higher priority initiatives, CB 5 Chair Vincent Arcuri said. But Arcuri said the planned repairs would help boost the community and should be pushed.

“When you rebuild the streets, the property value increases,” Arcuri said. “It becomes an economic boost to the community.”



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Kosciuszko Bridge connecting Queens and Brooklyn to be replaced


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The Kosciuszko Bridge will soon be falling down — and an entirely revamped bridge will be built in its place.

“The bridge is over 70 years old,” said Adam Levine, spokesperson for the state’s Department of Transportation (DOT). “It’s in constant need of repairs at this point.”

Those who use the bridge connecting Queens to Brooklyn are familiar with its heavy traffic. Built in the 1930s, the bridge was constructed at an elevated level to allow tall-masted ships to pass under it via Newtown Creek. Those ships don’t typically operate anymore, according to Levine.

“The bridge is really just higher than it needs to be,” he said.

The heightened structure is hard for trucks to accelerate and decelerate, creating a build-up of traffic. A new and efficient structure, 45 feet lower than the original, is on its way.

For Phase 1 of the project, a new cable-stayed Queens-bound structure will be built parallel to the existing bridge, with adequate width to accommodate all traffic. Phase 2 will see construction of the Brooklyn-bound side, and the original Kosciuszko Bridge will be torn down. Connections to local roads and the Long Island Expressway will be included in the new design as well.

Project development began over a decade ago, and members of the Kosciuszko Bridge Stakeholders Advisory Committee, the DOT and other community organizations have finally been granted approval to operate on an accelerated schedule. A design-build team should be contracted by spring of this year – a full 18 months earlier than expected – under the NY Works program.

More information on the project can be found at dot.ny.gov/kbridge.

 

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Politicians, locals want trash barged


| brennison@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/photo by Billy Rennison

Locals and elected officials trashed a recently approved plan that will increase waste-filled train traffic, saying residents need refuge from the refuse.

The state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) approved a plan on June 11 that increases the amount of sanitation districts’ garbage that passes through the Review Avenue waste transfer station and ends up on trains that travel through Glendale, Middle Village and Maspeth.

Currently, 958 tons of residential waste is delivered to the site, Waste Management spokesperson George McGrath said. The new plan will add an additional 200 tons from districts in Queens. The increase would not take place until after the facility is renovated, which has no timetable, he said.

For years, residents have complained about the noise and odor from the trains.

“You have people who can’t open their windows. You have people that I know of that have moved,” said Anthony Pedalino, who lives just down the street from the Middle Village tracks. “It’s just become a nightmare.”

Pedalino documents the daily disturbances recording the times the trains pass behind his house, with the times often occurring before 6 a.m.

Instead of alleviating the issues, homeowners are worried their troubles will only increase.

The DEC said the Department of Sanitation’s (DSNY) analysis found the project’s impact would not be considered significant under the criteria in the State Environmental Quality Review regulation.

“I think any amount of increased noise or odor pollution is too much to withstand for these residents,” State Senator Joe Addabbo said. “These residents don’t need more rails bothering them on a daily basis.”

The DSNY could not be reached for comment as of press time.

Area officials — including State Senator Michael Gianaris, Assemblymember Mike Miller and Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley — gathered with residents outside the waste transfer station to urge the DEC to reconsider the plan and instead barge the garbage.

Currently, the garbage travels from the Long Island City facility north to Selkirk, NY, crosses the Hudson River and travels back south through New Jersey to Waste Management’s landfill in West Virginia.

“Now I don’t think that makes much sense when you consider this facility is sitting on the Newtown Creek, a waterway,” said Bob Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association.

Holden and the elected officials want the trash barged to a New Jersey port, either Port Elizabeth or Port Newark, both of which have stops along the CSX rail line that carries the trash.

“All we’re saying is we know the issue, we have to get rid of our waste. Well, we’re saying rationally, go with the barge, it’s right here; enough with the rail,” Addabbo said.

Any legislation to change the route would have to be federal because of the interstate travel.

While barging was considered, McGrath said, the narrowness of Newtown Creek at that point creates logistical problems.

“There is no place to store barges in that area, so you have to move them in and out several times a day,” McGrath said. “That in turn probably involves lifting the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge several times a day.”

“Our focus is working with customers in moving waste as efficiently as possible. In this location we believe rail is the way to go.”

What’s new in Long Island City


| smosco@queenscourier.com

2 HUNTERS POINT RENDERw

No matter what time of year it is and what holiday is upon us, new developments in the neighborhood never cease. New restaurants, businesses, praise and that Hunters Point South project continue to move forth.

Here’s just a few items to come through recently:
Chocomize, a maker of chocolate bars that can be customized with over 100 topping options, recently relocated to LIC. After outgrowing their second space, they came to LIC to expand.

Rockrose Development Corporation recently announced that they will construct a 42-story, 709 unit residential rental building at 43-10 Crescent Street. Linc LIC, the first of a four building projects, will be completed in 2013.

The current owner of the Citibank Tower at One Court Square will sell the property to Waterbridge Capital. The sale price has been estimated to be $500 million.

Three new restaurants have opened in LIC in the last few weeks. Bear, featuring Eastern European influenced dishes with farm-to-table ingredients, is located at 12-14 31st Avenue.

Skinny’s Cantina, 47-05 Center Boulevard, is now serving Mexican dishes and cocktails and Alobar, which boasts craft beers and modern comfort food with an emphasis on seasonal and local ingredients, is located at 46-42 Vernon Boulevard.

LIC-based Quadlogic Controls Corp is the winner of the Wall Street Journal “Small Business, Big Innovation” award for its new product that attacks the environmentally unfriendly, costly and growing problem of electricity theft in various international markets.

Developments are still underway at Hunters Point South. The City of New York continues work on the Hunter’s Point South project, a waterfront development on a 30‐acre parcel of land in LIC that is bounded by 50th Avenue, 2nd Street, Newtown Creek and the East River. As part of the project, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) continues infrastructure installation (sanitary and storm sewers, water mains, roadways, curbs, and sidewalks). Construction of a 10‐acre waterfront park will start this month. It will include a playground, dog run, and large “green” that will serve as a place for active recreation as well as passive uses.

INFRASTRUCTURE CONSTRUCTION
Work Initiated/Completed During October
• Continuation of dewatering to allow for ongoing subsurface construction
• Backfilling of former 2nd Street water tunnel, south of 50th Avenue
• Continuation of installation of sanitary sewer system:
• 2nd Street, 50th Avenue to south of Borden Avenue
• Installation of storm sewer system
• 2nd Street, Borden Avenue south toward 54th Avenue
• Construction of chambers for 48” and 42” Combined Sewer Outfall (CSO) system at East River and upland chambers
• Continuation of relocation of existing/installation of new Con Edison utility structures (primarily west side of 2nd Street and north side of Borden Avenue, east of 2nd Street).
Courtesy of the NYCEDC

Clean up of Newtown Creek investigated


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of The Queens Courier

Indifference to filth and pollution for over a century has mutated Newtown Creek into more of a beast than a beauty.

Beginning in the mid-1800s, contaminants were spewed into Newtown Creek by more than 50 refineries that called the waterway home, including sawmills, lumber and coal yards, fertilizer and glue factories, petrochemical plants and oil refineries. The creek was also used by commercial vessels to transport oil, chemicals, fuel and other raw materials. During World War II, the channel was one of the busiest ports in the nation, and factories continue to operate on its banks to this day.

Congressmembers Carolyn Maloney and Nydia Velázquez, Borough President Helen Marshall and Assemblymember Catherine Nolan joined EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck on a boat tour of the Newtown Creek cleanup project on October 11. During the tour, the Queens leaders were taken to the key areas of pollution in the creek.

“For far too long, Newtown Creek has been a disgrace: a toxic dumping ground since the mid-1800s, a blight on our waterways, and the scene of perhaps the largest oil spill of all time – three times the size of the Exxon Valdez,” said Maloney, referencing the Greenpoint oil spill.

In addition to the damage done by industrial pollution, the city began dumping raw sewage into the water in 1856.

As a result of its history, which includes multiple spills, Newtown Creek is among the most polluted waterways in America.

In the early 1990s, New York State declared that the channel was not meeting water quality standards under the Clean Water Act, and since that time, several government-sponsored cleanups have occurred.

Newtown Creek, whose waters wash the shores of both Queens and Brooklyn, was designated a Superfund site by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in September of last year.

The Superfund Program was established by Congress to locate, investigate and cleanup the most hazardous sites across the country. It also provides the EPA with the authority to coerce responsible parties to account for the damage they have done, either by cleaning up the site themselves or by reimbursing the government for all costs associated with the restoration.

This past July, following a year-long examination, the EPA entered into a consent order with six potentially responsible parties to conduct a remedial investigation and feasibility study of the creek’s cleanup. Field work for the investigation, which will determine the nature of the pollutants, evaluate any risks to human life or the environment and assess prospective cleanup methods, is scheduled to begin within the next month.

“Restoring the health of both sides of Newtown Creek will give residents of Queens and Brooklyn improved access to the waterfront and make our neighborhoods healthier places to live,” said Maloney.

The EPA will be holding a public information session at LaGuardia Community College, located at 31-10 Thomson Avenue in Long Island City, on Thursday, October 27 from 2 to 4 p.m. and from 7 to 9 p.m. to discuss the project.

The investigation could take as long seven years to complete, and the removal of contaminants from Newtown Creek could last an additional 10 years. A preliminary estimate by the EPA approximates the cleanup costs between $300 and $400 million.

The EPA has reported that potentially responsible parties include premier oil companies BP America, Exxon Mobil and Texaco, as well as the City of New York. These, as well as other responsible parties, will be paying for the remedial investigation and feasibility study for the near future.

During initial tests performed by the EPA, harmful contaminants such as pesticides, metals, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which easily evaporate into the air, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) have been detected in Newtown Creek.

“The more we find out about this polluted waterway, which affects two boroughs, the more we see the need to move the feasibility study along and remediation, in the form of a massive cleanup, to begin,” said Marshall.

Investigate clean up of Newtown Creek


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Congressmember Carolyn Maloney

Indifference to filth and pollution for over a century has mutated Newtown Creek into more of a beast than a beauty.

Beginning in the mid-1800s, contaminants were spewed into Newtown Creek by more than 50 refineries that called the waterway home, including sawmills, lumber and coal yards, fertilizer and glue factories, petrochemical plants and oil refineries. The creek was also used by commercial vessels to transport oil, chemicals, fuel and other raw materials. During World War II, the channel was one of the busiest ports in the nation, and factories continue to operate on its banks to this day.

Congressmembers Carolyn Maloney and Nydia Velázquez, Borough President Helen Marshall and Assemblymember Catherine Nolan joined EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck on a boat tour of the Newtown Creek cleanup project on October 11. During the tour, the Queens leaders were taken to the key areas of pollution in the creek.

“For far too long, Newtown Creek has been a disgrace: a toxic dumping ground since the mid-1800s, a blight on our waterways, and the scene of perhaps the largest oil spill of all time – three times the size of the Exxon Valdez,” said Maloney, referencing the Greenpoint oil spill.

In addition to the damage done by industrial pollution, the city began dumping raw sewage into the water in 1856.

As a result of its history, which includes multiple spills, Newtown Creek is among the most polluted waterways in America.

In the early 1990s, New York State declared that the channel was not meeting water quality standards under the Clean Water Act, and since that time, several government-sponsored cleanups have occurred.

Newtown Creek, whose waters wash the shores of both Queens and Brooklyn, was designated a Superfund site by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in September of last year.

The Superfund Program was established by Congress to locate, investigate and cleanup the most hazardous sites across the country. It also provides the EPA with the authority to coerce responsible parties to account for the damage they have done, either by cleaning up the site themselves or by reimbursing the government for all costs associated with the restoration.

This past July, following a year-long examination, the EPA entered into a consent order with six potentially responsible parties to conduct a remedial investigation and feasibility study of the creek’s cleanup. Field work for the investigation, which will determine the nature of the pollutants, evaluate any risks to human life or the environment and assess prospective cleanup methods, is scheduled to begin within the next month.

“Restoring the health of both sides of Newtown Creek will give residents of Queens and Brooklyn improved access to the waterfront and make our neighborhoods healthier places to live,” said Maloney.

The EPA will be holding a public information session at LaGuardia Community College, located at 31-10 Thomson Avenue in Long Island City, on Thursday, October 27 from 2 to 4 p.m. and from 7 to 9 p.m. to discuss the project.

The investigation could take as long seven years to complete, and the removal of contaminants from Newtown Creek could last an additional 10 years. A preliminary estimate by the EPA approximates the cleanup costs between $300 and $400 million.

The EPA has reported that potentially responsible parties include premier oil companies BP America, Exxon Mobil and Texaco, as well as the City of New York. These, as well as other responsible parties, will be paying for the remedial investigation and feasibility study for the near future.

During initial tests performed by the EPA, harmful contaminants such as pesticides, metals, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which easily evaporate into the air, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) have been detected in Newtown Creek.

“The more we find out about this polluted waterway, which affects two boroughs, the more we see the need to move the feasibility study along and remediation, in the form of a massive cleanup, to begin,” said Marshall.