New Suit Planned Over Brooklyn Oil Spill
An environmental group and several city politicians said Wednesday they plan to file a new lawsuit against Exxon Mobil Corp. over its handling of a huge underground oil spill in Brooklyn.
Exxon has already faced a series of legal challenges related to the slick, which lies below the neighborhood of Greenpoint and dates from a centurylong period when the area was home to refineries.
Over more than a decade, the company has used a pumping system to siphon about 9.3 million gallons of oil from the borough’s water table, shrinking a plume believed to contain at least 17 million gallons before work began.
Environmentalists have bristled over the slow pace and effectiveness of the cleanup.
Plaintiffs including the environmental group Riverkeeper said they plan to announce the new lawsuit at a news conference Thursday. It would accuse the company of violating federal law by failing to ensure that water ejected into the Newtown Creek by the cleanup system is free of pollutants.
”There are some real concerns about what they are discharging in the water,” said City Councilman Eric Gioia, who is joining the lawsuit.
Exxon spokeswoman Prem Nair said Wednesday that the groundwater treatment system in place at the site was approved by state regulators and that the discharged liquid is sampled regularly for toxins.
She added that the company was ”very committed” to cleaning the site and had made significant progress despite difficult terrain.
Under federal environmental laws, the plaintiffs are required to formally notify Exxon of their intent to file suit, then give the company a chance to respond before proceeding to court.
Riverkeeper spokesman Basil Seggos said he was hopeful the company would agree to re-examine the pumping system to avoid further litigation.
The state’s Department of Environmental Conservation also has asked New York’s attorney general to initiate legal action against Exxon over the cleanup, but no such lawsuit has been filed.
EXXONMOBILE TAINT SUIT
Giant dumped 100 million poisoned Gallons a yr. in creek, group chargesThe environmental group Riverkeeper has initiated a lawsuit aimed at slamming shut a regulatory loophole that allows ExxonMobil to dump poisons into Newtown Creek.
The nonprofit alleges the energy giant is illegally discharging 100 million gallons of partially treated ground water – water laced with the known carcinogen benzene and other poisons – into the already polluted creek each year.
They say the dumping is illegal because ExxonMobil is operating without a federal Clean Water Act permit.
“They’re operating pollution pipes without a permit,” Riverkeeper investigator Basil Seggos said. “It’s stunning.”
ExxonMobil yesterday called Riverkeeper’s federal notice of intent to sue, the legal precursor to a lawsuit, “inaccurate and baseless.”
“ExxonMobil’s groundwater treatment systems have been in full compliance with the [state] discharge limits,” said spokeswoman Premlata Nair. “We sample the treated ground water every month to ensure compliance with these discharge limits.”
Officials at the state Department of Environmental Conservation said they will review Riverkeeper’s claim to determine whether ExxonMobil is “committing additional violations, including those related to the Clean Water Act.”
The water is being dumped into the creek as part of ExxonMobil’s efforts to clean up a massive underground Greenpoint oil spill. The water is sucked up from the underground water table, which is slick with oil and its toxic by-products.
Since 2005, ExxonMobil has been disposing of the water with a permit issued under state DEC regulations that are less rigorous than federal law requires, Seggos charged.
The new permit was issued months before the state-administered federal Clean Water Act permit ExxonMobil was working under was due to be renewed in December 2005, according to documents obtained by the Daily News.
The DEC said the new permit was issued under state regulations to consolidate permits relating to the spill.
Riverkeeper said the new permit does not include a public review process of ExxonMobil’s cleanup or require that the company use the newest technologies.
The pending Riverkeeper lawsuit is the second in three years against ExxonMobil related to the spill, which has been seeping oil into Newtown Creek for 50 years.
The spill – at least 17 million gallons – covers 55 acres and is believed to be the largest in the country.
In addition to benzene, the discharged water also contains arsenic and cancer-causing xylenes.
Residents of Greenpoint and Brooklyn and Queens lawmakers have joined the legal challenges.
“Why does Exxon believe they can continue to pollute our land and water with impunity?” demanded City Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Sunnyside).
Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz charged that ExxonMobil’s cleanup effort is “actually exacerbating the problem.”
BY MELISSA GRACE
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Thursday, January 25th, 2007
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