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EPA Extends Public Comment Period for Proposal to Put Newtown Creek on Nation's Superfund List

Release Date: 10/15/2009
Contact Information: Beth Totman (212) 637-3662, totman.elizabeth@epa.gov

(New York, NY) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has extended the period of time for community input on the proposal to add New York City’s Newtown Creek to the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL). The NPL is EPA’s list of contaminated sites that warrant further investigation and long-term cleanup. The state of New York referred the site to EPA due to the complex nature of the contamination along the creek.

Newtown Creek is part of the core area of the New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary, which has been designated by EPA as an “estuary of national significance.” Despite the ongoing pollution problems, some residents currently use the creek for recreational purposes such as kayaking, while others catch fish for consumption. Various sediment and surface water samples have been taken along the creek and reveal the presence of pesticides, metals, PCBs, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

In the mid -1800s, the area adjacent to the 3.8-mile Newtown Creek was one of the busiest hubs of industrial activity in New York City. More than 50 industrial facilities were located along its banks, including oil refineries, petrochemical plants, fertilizer and glue factories, sawmills, lumber yards and coal yards. The creek was crowded with commercial vessels, including large boats bringing in raw materials and fuel and taking out oil, chemicals and metals. In addition to the industrial pollution that resulted from all of this activity, the city began discharging raw sewage directly into the water in 1856. During World War II, the creek was one of the busiest ports in the nation. Some factories and facilities still operate along it and various adjacent contaminated sites have contributed to its contamination. Today, as a result of its industrial history, including countless spills, Newtown Creek is badly polluted.

In the early 1990s, New York State declared that Newtown Creek was not meeting water quality standards under the Clean Water Act. The New York City Department of Environmental Protection has sampled sediment and surface water at a number of locations along the creek since 1980. In early 2009, EPA sampled the sediment throughout the length of Newtown Creek and its tributaries. EPA used the data to evaluate Newtown Creek for inclusion on the NPL.

The site was proposed for NPL listing on September 23, 2009, at which point a 60-day public comment period began. With the 30-day extension of the public comment period, EPA will be accepting comments on the proposed listing until December 23, 2009. For instructions to submit comments go to http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/npl/pubcom.htm or contact Ildefonso Acosta, Region 2 Acting NPL Coordinator at (212) 637-4344 or acosta.ildefonso@epa.gov. To find out more about the NPL Site Listing Process, visit: http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/npl/npl_hrs.htm. For a Google Earth aerial view of the Newtown Creek site: http://www.epa.gov/region2/kml/newtown_creek.kml. (Please note that you must have Google Earth installed on your computer to view the map. To download Google Earth, visit http://earth.google.com/download-earth.html.

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