Per the recommendation of commenter Amy on my recent post about Newtown Creek, I went to the public meeting last night concerning the narrow body of water separating our neighborhood from Queens. On the docket: The proposed listing of Newtown Creek as a SuperFund site. While I learned a lot of details surrounding this decision, there was so much new information, its hard to know what to convey here, so I’ll start with some parts of the Superfund process:

It’s my understanding there are three steps to become a listed Superfund site. First upon completion of a Hazard Ranking System screening, sites are placed on the National Priorities List. After this, there is a three month period where the public is allowed to submit their comments in regard to the site in question. Finally, taking into consideration these comments along with several other factors, the EPA decides whether or not to give the site in question Superfund designation. Right now, we are in the comments period with Newtown creek and there are three ways for concerned citizens to weigh in which I will list below. The deadline for submitting your comments is December 23rd.
I know what you are probably thinking – DUH, Newtown creek is extremely polluted, why is there even a debate over whether or not it should be given assistance from the EPA? Honestly, I was thinking the same thing before the meeting. Dan Walsh, Director of the mayor’s office of Environmental Remediation called the Newtown Creek clean up an effort of ‘Titanic’ proportions, but involved in this clean up are several actors with many different priorities (the city, businesses, residents and the EPA to name a few) so getting on the same page when it comes to Newtown Creek has been tricky.
So you know just how sticky the situation is – here are a few quick facts: Newtown creek suffers from many years of varied forms of contamination because of industrial activity. In the 1920’s it was the heaviest industrialized area on earth! Today over 300,000 New Yorkers live within a one mile radius of the waterway and around 1,000 businesses are within a quarter mile radius of it. Whatever happens with the creek will impact hundreds of properties and those same hundreds of properties will impact what happens with the creek. This isn’t even taking into account the re-zoning of the area or any other of the city’s initiatives. I feel as though I’ve only just described the tip of the iceberg of all the intricacies, but you get the idea.
The concept of “Superfund” seemed very vague to me, but specifically for Newtown creek, it has to do with the sediment of the waterway. Right now both the city and the EPA would ultimately want to dredge Newtown. But they want it at different paces and for different reasons. I understood from last night’s meeting that the city would like the creek dredged sooner so it can move forward with several of its proposed projects including the major rezoning of the Hunters Point South. The EPA would prefer a slower process that included testing of the silt in the creek – a process that could take up to ten years. The city proposes a unique collaboration with the EPA, one that would diverge outside the normal Superfund protocol, but would help both parties achieve their goals in a timely manner.
Next week the EPA and the Brooklyn Community Board 1 are holding a two similar forums, so we can hear their sides. If you are interested it will be on Monday December 14th at Mary D’Angelis Senior Citizen Housing Development (88 Dupont between Manhattan and Franklin). The community board meeting will start at 6pm with the EPA meeting starting shortly after at 6:30pm.

You are encouraged to send your comments concerning Newtown to the EPA. Here are three ways to do so:

Phone or Email:
– Call (212)637-4343 with your comments
– Email Munhall.dennis@epa .gov
– In both cases cite Doc #: EPA-HQ-SFUND-2009-0588

– Go to
– Click on ‘submit a comment’
– In enter Keyword or ID enter the Doc #: EPA-HQ-SFUND-2009-0588-0005

By Mail:
– Send correspondence to:
Docket Coordinator, Head Quarters
US Environmental Protection Agency
CERCLA Docket Office
(Mail Code 5305T)
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20460
– ID your comment with the Doc #: EPA-HQ-SFUND-2009-0588

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