In 1978 a US Coast Guard helicopter on a routine check spotted oil spilling into Newtown Creek. An estimated 30 million gallons leaked into the soil and water, causing health and environmental problems to the residents of Greenpoint – human and otherwise – ever since.
This week, 36 years after the spill was first noticed, the government will receive more money to clean up the site from the people responsible for turning the creek into a polluted waterway. On Tuesday, the US government reached a settlement with Getty Petroleum which will pump an additional $16 million into the clean up of the designated Superfund site. As reported in the New York Post, Getty filed for bankruptcy back in 2011 and the federal government will receive the $16 million as part of that process.
The Superfund program allows the Environmental Protection Agency to make sure polluters – not taxpayers – pay for the clean up when these kinds of environmental disasters occur. Yay Superfund! (Well not yay Superfund sites, but yay this law!)
In a statement Preet Bharara, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said “For more than a century, irresponsible industrial activities turned Newtown Creek into a tributary of toxic waste. Today’s settlement ensures that Getty takes responsibility for its contribution to that sad legacy, and pays a fair share of clean-up costs at the site.”
As reported in the Courthouse News Service, $14.8 million will go to the EPA to help pay back the money they’ve already spent on cleanup and $1.16 million will go the Interior Department* and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for damage to natural resources and assessment costs.
Cleaning up Newtown Creek has already been a long, challenging process and that probably will be the case for years to come. Hopefully with these additional resources the work will continue, and Greenpointers will be able to enjoy a less toxic home soon.