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December 11, 2008

New Evidence of Newtown Creek Area Contamination Demonstrates Serious Threat to Public Health

-Congresswoman Velázquez Urges EPA to Take Action-

NEW YORK – U.S. Representative Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) has called for fast action from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to fully investigate the extent of contamination in the Newtown Creek area.  In particular, she urged close attention be paid to new evidence about chlorinated plumes that threaten the health of workers and residents in the area.  The EPA previously agreed to consider the area for Superfund designation, but has not issued a final decision.

The following is the text of the Congresswoman’s letter sent today to EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson:

“I write to draw your attention to new evidence concerning the Newtown Creek contamination in my district in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.  Several dangerously chlorinated plumes, including the Meeker Avenue plume, pose an imminent risk to the health of local residents.  The EPA must act aggressively and conduct a full investigation.

Congress recently directed the EPA to analyze the Newtown Creek contamination, and your agency issued a report indicating the need for additional analysis to be completed.  The EPA then agreed to consider whether Newtown Creek warrants Superfund designation.  And now the evidence appears to be overwhelming.  The EPA must fulfill its duty to the public by taking charge of this investigation.  If this site, which is one of the largest contaminations on record, does not merit Superfund status; then none does.

Recent NYSDEC and NYC work to assess the plume helps, but state and local agencies lack the resources to fully analyze the impact on water and air conditions in the nearby area. To date, only a few of the hundreds of homes and businesses on the front lines have been investigated.  The State is testing 450 additional homes and businesses, so New York is doing its part.  Yet contaminated groundwater and dangerous vapors seeping into homes and businesses indicate that federal expertise could preserve health and save lives.  There is a pressing need for EPA resources and manpower, and I call on the Agency to use its full statutory authority to protect the health of residents neighboring the Meeker Avenue plume and the larger Newtown Creek area.  After years of living in the dark, residents and workers need to know what dangers they face.

I would appreciate a response from you detailing the efforts the Agency intends to make to act on the new evidence.”