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North Brooklyn got some super news this week.
After two decades of analysis and environmental testing, the Environmental Protection Agency has recommended adding Newtown Creek to the federal Superfund Priority list, an initial step towards federal intervention to cleaning up the long-polluted Brooklyn waterway.
“Newtown Creek is one of the most grossly contaminated waterways in the country,” said Acting Regional Administrator George Pavlou. “By listing the Creek, EPA can focus on doing the extensive sampling needed to figure out the best way to address the contamination and see the work through.”
Testing has occurred on a 3.8-mile site near Newtown Creek by several governmental agencies since 1980.After intense lobbying from Reps. Nydia Velazquez (D-Williamsburg) and Anthony Weiner (D-Sheepshead Bay), the EPA began to get more involved in conducting samples along the creek.After publishing a report in September 2007 reviewing past work and recommendations regarding future work at the creek, the EPA announced it would conduct further investigations over mitigating pollution along the waterway.
Reaction throughout the North Brooklyn community was mixed, as many environmental activists contemplated what effect a federal Superfund designation would have on other environmental problems in the neighborhood.
“I have a lot of questions.Does it mean that Newtown Creek gets clean, how many years will it take, does it mean that the dredging for Newtown Creek takes place or does it slow down the sludge tank,” said Christine Hollowacz, community liaison for the Newtown Creek Monitoring Committee.
Newtown Creek Aliiance member Laura Hofmann felt that she would be unable to comment yet because she did not know what Superfund listing meant for the community.
“ We don’t know if there is money there to cleanup the creek,” said Hofmann.“We have to find out these details before we form an opinion.”
Former City Council candidate and community activist Evan Thies was more optimistic about the federal government’s role in cleaning up the site.
“It’s important that if the EPA is going to proceed, they do it in a way that is mindful of potential impacts to the local community, but it is obviously necessary that drastic measures are taken to clean up the creek since the state has completely failed to expedite the cleanup itself,” said Thies.
The Bloomberg administration, which has been stridently opposed to designating the Gowanus Canal a Superfund site, was measured in its response to Newtown Creek.
“We will be carefully reviewing EPA’s proposal during the public comment period to understand their assessment of the creek’s condition, and the potential impact of a Superfund listing on the city’s current plans in the creek and the surrounding areas,” said Marc LaVorgna, a spokesperson for the mayor.
The city’s position is that naming the Gowanus a Superfund site could forever stigmatize it, jeopardizing over $400 million in private investment planned along the heavily polluted waterway.
—with Gary Buiso
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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