Newtown Creek, first designated as a Superfund site in 2010, got another delay in the remediation process — and a pretty big one at that.

The EPA announced plans for an additional groundwater study taking place in 2024 at a recent meeting with the Newtown Creek Superfund Site Community Advisory Group, a volunteer group of local concerned residents, Gothamist reports.

“The EPA shared an updated timeline on its work toward creating a comprehensive plan to clean the entire creek. That cleanup plan, known as a Record of Decision, was initially expected to be completed in 2023 — but now it isn’t due to be complete until 2028. The EPA’s new timeline also estimates that the larger cleanup of the entire creek would not begin until 2032 at the earliest — 22 years after it was declared a Superfund site for its unsafe levels of copper, lead, dioxins, pesticides, carcinogenic chemicals, petroleum byproducts and other contaminants.”

The COVID-19 pandemic delayed an already dragged-out process to clean up the site (for reference, the EPA added the Gowanus Canal to its list of Superfund sites the same year that they added Newtown Creek, and dredging of the site commenced in 2020). 

“On the one hand, it was a shock, because they hadn’t told us what the new timeline was, but many members of the CAG sort of assumed that we weren’t gonna be close to our original timeline, but I think just actually seeing the information and understanding exactly the five to six-year delay felt like a major setback,” said Willis Elkins, executive director of the Newtown Creek Alliance.

Newtown Creek (courtesy of Doug Letterman)

When asked about the possibility of part of a clean-up commencing while waiting for the results of other studies, Elkins said that the group did not want to sacrifice the quality of the cleanup for expediency. “The problem is that we should have been doing this four, five years ago…Before COVID, it was proposed and the EPA was entertaining the idea of doing an early action to sort of get the ball rolling. But that early action was in a very different area of the creek,” he said.

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“The East Branch is an interesting spot to do that because it has a lot of the serious issues that exist around the rest of the creek….and it’s an area where you can test out a remedy because it’s not actively used for shipping. It has a lot of those characteristics that make it a good test site,” Elkins continued. “But the site that was looked at four or five years ago, it was sort of the general consensus from the community was that it was not a good site. And that wasn’t proposed by the EPA, it was proposed by the responsible parties, that they wanted to focus on the sections of the creek that are closer to the East River, the lower two miles where there’s less contamination and less pressing need for remediation, and that was where they wanted to focus the efforts.”

In the meantime, concerned residents are encouraged to get involved with the CAG. You can learn more about the group and register for their monthly meetings here.

Representatives from the EPA did not respond to Greenpointers‘ request for comment.

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