Velazquez and Weiner Announce Findings of First EPA Study on Nation’s Largest Oil Spill
NEW YORK – Today, Representatives Nydia M. Velázquez (D-N.Y.) and Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y) discussed the findings of an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study of Newtown Creek, the site of the nation’s largest oil spill. The independent study – the most comprehensive assessment of the area to date – was designed to analyze the recovery process and the health affects on the surrounding area. However, the report failed to address many of the specific health concerns of neighborhood residents, such as the respiratory affects on children. These shortfalls, coupled with information in the report indicating that the spill is significantly larger than previously thought, proves the need for increased recovery and research.
“I am disappointed that many of our questions, particularly those that relate to health concerns, remain unanswered by the EPA’s study. It is still uncertain as to the affects this contamination is having on the surrounding community, and the full extent of the spill itself,” said Congresswoman Velázquez. “While we received a few answers today, it is clear that we will still need to push to ensure that this oil spill and it is toxic remnants are cleaned up once and for all.”
The spill at Newtown creek was originally estimated to be 17 million gallons, one and a half times larger than the notorious Exxon Valdez. Oil has already been found across 55 acres in the surrounding area, settling under homes and businesses in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. However, according to the EPA study, these original estimates may have been far too low, with new estimates suggesting that the spill may actually be as high as 30 million gallons. While the contamination was originally discovered in 1978, the recovery process has been slow, and with only 8.8 million gallons of oil removed so far, it is estimated that an additional 25 years are required to complete the cleanup process.
“While the oil companies lag in their cleanup responsibilities, the health and safety of Newtown Creek’s residents hang in the balance,” said Congressman Weiner. “Finally, the public has gotten some answers to its questions about the effects this oil spill is having on our community and local environment. But there is still more to learn, and we will not stop pressing the issue until residents are fully informed of all the health risks and the remediation process has been expedited.”
The EPA study is a result of legislation authored and championed by Representatives Velázquez and Weiner in the 2006 Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act. Shortly after Congress authorized the study, the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and ExxonMobil found elevated levels of cancer-causing benzene and potentially explosive methane gas near homes in the community surrounding the site. Despite these findings, ExxonMobil, the company primarily responsible for the Greenpoint spill, has been slow to respond to the contamination, and in March 2007, the company ceased all ground water recovery activities until this past summer. In light of the EPA study, Representatives Velázquez and Weiner will continue to push for renewed cleanup efforts so that Newtown Creek will finally be free of the remnants of this spill.