Until the explosion in the Gulf of Mexico summer, the secret oil spill under Newtown Creek was considered to have been the largest in U.S. history, worse even than the Exxon Valdez disaster.
And yet because the spill happened over decades, with oil leaking into the ground from refineries on the creek bordering Queens and Brooklyn, it has largely been ignored. Finding someone to foot the bill for the cleanup has been nearly impossible, because the spill comes from so many different leaks, many sourced to defunct refineries.
Since he took office four years ago, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has been hammering Exxon Mobil to do just that, and one of his last acts in office, before he moves into the governor’s mansion, has been to achieve a $25 million settlement from the oil giant as well as a commitment to clean up the spill. The waterway has many other issues–part of the reason Newtown Creek was named a Superfund site earlier this year–but the Exxon effort should go a long way in addressing one of its most serious issues. According to Cuomo’s office:
The settlement requires ExxonMobil to conduct a comprehensive cleanup of its oil and related contamination at its Greenpoint facility and in the surrounding community, including oil floating on top of the water table, contaminated groundwater, soil as well as soil vapors. The settlement requires ExxonMobil to keep the cleanup moving forward expeditiously, including specific milestones such as:
- A plan for identifying the scope of the contamination involving oil, groundwater, soil and soil vapor problems must be created within 90 days of the agreement.
- A report on groundwater problems must be done within 120 days.
- A report on soil problems must be done within 180 days.
- A plan to involve the community must be submitted within 90 days.
- A report on the status and progress of the cleanup effort must be submitted quarterly and annually.
- An evaluation of new technology that could be used to speed up the cleanup of the oil must be done within one year.
In addition, the company must also pay approximately $25 million for penalties, costs and improving the local environment. This amount includes a payment of $19.5 million for environmental projects that will benefit the Greenpoint community, which is the largest single payment of its kind in New York’s history.
Maybe they can spend some of that money on returning kayaks to the creek.