Newtown Creek polluters alive and well. State officials investigate fresh oil leak.

Photo courtesy of Newtown Creek Alliance

Anyone living in Greenpoint knows whatever lies in the murky waters of Newtown Creek is filled with some seriously nasty cancer-causing stuff: PCBs, VOCs, oil, anti-freeze—the list is endless.  In recent months our little Superfund has had a lot of work done. It was dredged to accommodate a new CSO pipeline and major clean-up efforts are underway to reverse years of heavy pollution. Many say the clean-up is working: Blue crabs are coming back, even birds like the majestic Great Egret are settling upon the creek’s shore. Yet for all this focus on revitalizing the water, sadly Newtown Creek is being polluted once more. State and city officials announced they are investing multiple reports of oil leaks—two of which were reported this month.  

From April to June, the Department of Environmental Conservation recorded seven incidents of unknown petroleum on the surface of the water which they believe to be the result of 10 gallons of leaking oil. This month two more slicks were recorded. Compared to last year, the amount of recorded incidents has more than quadrupled. How is that for scary?

So who is dumping oil into the Creek? According to spokesman for the DEC, Peter Constantakes, the DEC investigation has identified one or more facilities near the creek that may be the culprits. These facilities are being investigated for potentially violating laws pertaining to storing petroleum in bulk—which was deemed the cause of the spills this spring.  While Mr. Constantakes has declined to name names, as the investigation is still on-going, he assures the source of the problem was corrected to prevent further leaks.  If the polluters are found responsible—and that is a big IF since we all know how little justice prevails when it comes to our precious environment—they will  face up to $25,000 in fines, per day of violation.

For those of us crossing the Pulaski and look down at the creek below, an oil patch might go unnoticed.  On any given day we may see garbage, chemical run-off after a hard rain, or weird unidentifiable things floating on the surface. These factors make it difficult to distinguish between new pollutants and old ones.  Willis Elkins from the Newtown Creek Alliance tells us, “If there is a large, bright rainbow of petroleum on the water, then something’s off.”

So there you have it folks. Please be vigilant and just like the MTA says: If you see something suspicious, say something. Part of keeping our waterways clean starts with us. To report a spill call 311 or report it directly to the DEC’s Turn in a Polluter Hotline: 1-800-TIPP-DEC

About Kim M

Kim is a native New Yorker, local activist and writer. When she's not writing books or playing Erin Brockovich with her Save Greenpoint peeps, you will see her whipping around Greenpoint on her bike, chatting it up with folks, and sharing stories about what it is about her hometown that makes life worth living. Follow her on twitter @kimasson or www.kimmassonwrites.com

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