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Nydia supports Newtown Creek Superfund

By Will Yakowicz

October 16, 2009

One day after the federal government gave residents 30 more days to complain about the Newtown Creek, the fetid waterway’s congresswoman revealed that she supports designating the creek as a toxic Superfund site.

In doing so, Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-Sunset Park) linked the creek with the Gowanus Canal, its just-as-repulsive sister sluice that is nearing the end of the public comment period that is expected to result in Superfund designation by the Environmental Protection Agency.

“Securing a healthy environment is the single most important factor in choosing a course of action for cleaning both the Gowanus Canal and Newtown Creek,” Velazquez said in a statement. “Superfund designation will thoroughly remove hazards and transform these waterways into a source of pride for our community.

“The Gowanus Canal and Newtown Creek have threatened the health of New Yorkers for long enough,” she added.

Velazquez’s input followed the EPA’s decision to extend to Dec. 23 the public comment period over the creek, which separates Brooklyn from Queens, another borough.

Superfund designation begins a process that allows the EPA to hold polluters responsible for funding a clean-up the sludge stream.

The process of designating the Gowanus Canal, begun earlier this year, has been fairly controversy, as the city is hoping to spur residential development in the area and on the banks. Mayor Bloomberg has proposed his own clean-up plan in hopes of avoiding the “stigma” of Superfund designation.

So far, the Newtown Creek process appears to be less controversial than in South Brooklyn, but the creek does share a few traits with the canal. Both are swirling with rainbows of oil and raw sewage. And both have a very long list of potentially liable polluters.

Every year, 2.7 billions of gallons of raw sewage spill into the creek. And nearby, a 30-million-gallon oil spill, attributed to decades-old leaks from oil refineries, still seeps into the waterway. The spill is three times the size of the Exxon Valdez disaster.

Samples of the creek taken in Sept. 2009 revealed the presence of “pesticides, metals, polychlorinated biphenyls, and volatile organic compounds which are potentially harmful” and “can easily evaporate into the air.”

The Bloomberg administration has yet to offer an opinion about Superfund designation for Newtown Creek. A mayoral spokesman said that the administration would weigh in during the public comment period.