ExxonMobil dropped off a letter today at the apartment, no stamp or name and addressed only to “Dear Neighbor” in a tipped haphazard typewriter’s letters. This intimacy is creepy from one of the most massive entities in the world. Did ExxonMobil just drop by and leave a letter, being sorry they had missed me?

Anyway, the letter, below, is about the Greenpoint Petroleum Remediation Project, the endless process by which ExxonMobil is removing the Greenpoint Oil Spill from underneath my house, then refining and selling it – an ineluctable win-win.

The letter tells us that “soil boring activity” is about to wreck the sidewalk on the block. Reassuringly, the letter claims it “poses no health or safety issues for you.” Sweet. I’m sitting on top of 30 million gallons of oil, plus the Meeker Avenue Plumes, many of my neighbors have devices in their basements to capture benzene vapors escaping the spill so they don’t breathe them in inside their own homes – but there is no health or safety risk when they dig out the sidewalk to “further assess the remediation progress.”

Sick, ExxonMobil! I’ll just kick back and let the good times ride for “only a few days” and then “a few weeks later” and then some more “boring will be performed” and then the place will be “reasonably restored to previous or better conditions” and they promise to be “efficient and courteous”! And no doubt they will. Just ask Baton Rouge.



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  1. While I think we have to be skeptical of ExxonMobil’s actions and ensure that they hold up their end of remediation bargains, I don’t think your outrage about this letter is fair or appropriate. Let’s go through the points you make:

    -On the topic of notifying you, once they have obtained the necessary permits for sidewalk work they’re not required to inform you in advance at all, so even this is a courtesy.

    -“wreck the sidewalk” is a really dramatic way of phrasing it. Yes, there’ll be some interruption, but cutting some pavement to perform test borings is hardly ripping up the whole street. Comparing their ability to pour a few feet of concrete to the gulf spill is a stretch.

    -Benzene in your basement is a problem because it has a higher vapor density than ambient air, meaning it sinks and fills in l0w-lying areas. Since basements don’t exchange air much, the concentration becomes a problem. While I won’t pretend to know the exact amount exuded by a test boring, the local outdoor exposure for people nearby will almost certainly be vanishingly small and likely no different from any of the other road and utility reconstruction projects happening continually in the area. While we certainly have cause to question what an oil company tells us poses no health risk, drawing the connection to the basement issue fails to recognize the conditions present in basements that make that a specific hazard.

    ExxonMobil certainly doesn’t need me defending it, but at the same time, we can’t simultaneously demand remediation action from them and cry havoc when they take it, at least without better evidence.

    1. But you kinda just did defend Exxon Mobil, and with ridiculous reasons. Joel, all of your points were rational and well received by most.

      1. In what way were my counterpoints ridiculous? Joel’s points are all very valid concerns, I just also think that test soil borings are a perfectly reasonable thing to do in a remediation process like this. It’s important to be critical of Exxon, but our criticisms must be based in science and reasonable against the realities of the undertaking, which obviously requires breaking ground in places.

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