Today’s news:

First Public Hearing for Newtown Creek

The Newtown Creek Alliance has invited the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to address their recent Superfund recommendation for Newtown Creek, one of the state’s most polluted estuaries.

The meeting, described as a Community Information Session, which will occur on Thursday, November 5, in St. Cecilia’s Auditorium (24 North Henry St.) at 7 p.m. is not a public hearing, despite an earlier announcement to the contrary.  Agency officials will answer questions from community members about the Superfund designation process. Newtown Creek was listed by the EPA as a national priority on September 23, 2009, though the waterway has not received an official placement on the federal Superfund list.

Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-Brooklyn) nevertheless welcomed the announcement, proclaiming that the EPA should move forward with designating Newtown Creek under the Superfund program which she believes “establishes an equitable process for restoring accountability.

“What we have before us is a means to fully protect the well being of New Yorkers, as well as ensure future growth and responsible development in our neighborhoods,” said Velazquez.“Efforts to transform Brooklyn’s waterfront have brought the community together and have resulted in the many innovative projects underway.Superfund designation will complement these efforts. By working together we will fully restore both the functionality and beauty of these sites.”

Assemblymember Joe Lentol (D-Williamsburg) urged neighborhood residents to attend the hearing in order to find out more about different aspects of the Superfund process that could affect homeowners and local businesses.

“I highly encourage everyone to attend any and all information sessions becausean informed public is a powerful public,” said Lentol.“And when it comes to a vital environmental issue like this, that affects our community, we need all the power we can get.”

Those unable to attend the hearing can still make public comments.The public comment period regarding Newtown Creek’s Superfund status has already been extended by the EPA an additional 30 days, to December 23, 2009.

Newtown Creek is part of the New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary, which the EPA has designated as an “estuary of national significance.” The waterway has had a history of industrial activity since the mid 1800s, when more than fifty facilities, including oil refineries, petrochemical plants, fertilizer and glue factories were located on or near its banks.Raw sewage was poured into the waterway in 1856, and the Creek remained one of the busiest ports in the country through World War II.

Since 1980, the EPA has taken sediment and surface water samples in environmental tests along the Creek, which have revealed the presence of pesticides, metals, PCBs, and volatile organic compounds.The latest round of testing took place in early 2009, which the EPA used in its decision to recommend Superfund designation for the site.

For instructions to submit comments to the EPA, 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.

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