Drilling for oil-spill tests
Gioia wants state to examine soil on Queens side of Newtown Creek
What lies beneath?A Sunnyside politician is calling for state testing of the soil on the
Queens side of Newtown Creek, contaminated by a massive oil spill a
half-century ago.Testing in Greenpoint has detected elevated levels of benzene and other
carcinogens from the underground spill, believed to have been caused by
an October 1950 refinery explosion.
Anyone who lives or works in the area has to wonder what lies beneath
their homes or their business,” City Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Sunnyside)
said. “We don’t know the magnitude of the spill, how far can a toxic
spill travel in 50 years.
“If the ground is filled with such toxic chemicals that every time it
rains you find yourself coughing, you have to ask yourself, how safe is
Fioia said he ventured out onto the creek himself in a small boat and
could see the oil oozing from the soil in one area. In a letter dated
Sept. 27, he asked the state Department of Environmental Conservation to
expand soil testing to Long Island City and Maspeth.
But the department’s spokeswoman, Maureen Wren, said the agency has
reviewed topography and water flows and doesn’t believe ground testing
is warranted at this point.
There’s no information that the spill has impacted the Queens side,”
she said. “If information or a call comes to our attention about impacts
to Queens, then we’ll definitely investigate it.”
The department already has looked into possible contamination in Long
Island City, but found it was all from local sources, not the 1950 oil
spill, Wren said.
The Coast Guard estimated in 1978 that the spill totaled 17 million
gallons of oil, spilled in a series of leaks at a Standard Oil Co. of
New York refinery.
ExxonMobil now owns the refinery, and Amoco (now BP) and Texaco (now
Chevron) also may have contributed to the spill.
The spill – branded the largest urban oil spill ever – has spread in a
55-acre plume to residential parts of Greenpoint. Tests have shown
elevated levels of benzene, which can cause cancer, as well as methane.
Basil Seggos, chief investigator for environmental group Riverkeeper,
said there is no question the bulk of the spill is on the Brooklyn side
of the creek.
“Has it gotten underneath the creek, and somehow into Queens? I think
that’s unlikely,” Seggos said. “It would probably be unique.”
But that doesn’t mean the oil hasn’t gotten into Queens, Seggos said.
The oil is along the Queens shoreline, affecting anyone who swims or
fishes in the water.
The DEC is in the process of signing up Greenpoint homes for indoor
methane air sampling, Wren said.
Greenpoint residents have filed one lawsuit against the oil companies,
while Riverkeeper, Gioia’s office and other elected officials have filed
another. Both are pending.
BY DEREK ROSE
Entry filed under: Uncategorized. Tags: Queens.