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NYC’s Newtown Creek to Get a Cleanup By Big Oil and Gas Cos

July 12, 2011

New York City has had a dirty little secret for some time. No, I’m not talking about the political controversies a la Eliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner that have plagued New York State in recent years. I’m talking about something even worse: Newtown Creek.

It’s a toxic 3.8-mile creek that separates Brooklyn and Queens and the site of one of the United State’s largest oil spills. Much of the pollution dates back to a notorious 1950 Mobil oil spill that sadly, wasn’t uncovered until 1978. Over the decades, up to 30 million gallons of oil seeped into this poor creek — wiping out most wildlife and fueling serious health and pollution concerns from nearby residents on the waterfronts of Greenpoint, Brooklyn and southern Queens. The water and sediment is contaminated with pesticides, heavy metals and PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, a banned carcinogen, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

This isn’t a creek you want the kids swimming in.

Yesterday, the Obama administration reached an agreement with the oil and gas companies responsible for polluting the waterway to begin a long-awaited Superfund cleanup of Newtown Creek. The six parties responsible for cleansing the contaminated area — Exxon; Chevron Corp.; BP; Freeport- McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc.; National Grid PLC; and the City of New York–must pay the Environmental Protection Agency $750,000 for the agency’s prior work at Newtown Creek and reimburse it for oversight costs.

“Newtown Creek is one of the most polluted urban water bodies in the country, and EPA is committed to making sure this waterway receives a thorough cleanup,” said Judith Enck, the US Environmental Protection Agency’s regional administrator. The recent agreement ensures that “the parties responsible for the pollution, not the taxpayer, will foot the bill,” she said.

The news announced yesterday is music to anyone’s ears who cares about the welfare of citizens and our planet. We can all be very hopeful that this NYC creek will get the proper detox treatment it deserves, and that the big companies who are responsible for this are being held accountable. Karma is a you know what.

I’ll keep you posted on the progress of the clean up here in the states. In the meantime, watch this video to learn more about NYC’s dirty little secret and the devastating effects the oil spill has had on this New York City community.

This piece has been cross-published at EarthHour.org.

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