Reporting Mary Calvi
NEW YORK (CBS 2/AP) – A New York City waterway that’s been an eyesore for years was set to undergo a clean up. Newtown Creek was among seven hazardous waste sites added to the National Superfund List.
The listing by the Environmental Protection Agency means the agency will conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the creek to determine what remediation needs to take place, the agency said in a statement. Pesticides, metals and polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, have been found in the nearly four-mile-long creek that divides the boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn, the agency said.
Since the 1800s, the creek has been a hub of manufacturing. Early on, dozens of refineries, factories, and coal and lumber yards lined its shores.
In the late 1800s, the city pumped raw sewage into its waters. And during World War II, it was one of the busiest ports in the nation, the EPA said.
Today, Newtown Creek continues to play a role in the city’s commerce, with tugs still bringing materials to businesses.
But it’s nowhere near the level of commercial activity that led a merchants’ association to declare in 1921 that it was “one of the most important and flourishing industrial districts in the United States,” citing an average of 10,000 vessels passing through the waterway each year.
Newtown Creek, part of the New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary, is the second New York City waterway to be designated a Superfund site this year. Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal was placed on the list on March 2.
The director of the Newtown Creek Alliance, Katie Schmid, said the advocacy group welcomed the federal oversight and resources.
“The city and the state have been great in coming to the table. But particularly with the economy with the way it is, neither of them has the ability to remediate such a large problem,” she said.
The group will be working with local businesses and communities to allay concerns about the impact of an environmental cleanup, she said.
“Superfund is really the way to get the creek completely cleaned up,” she said.
U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner said in a statement that the Superfund designation was welcome but “long overdue.”
The environmental group Riverkeeper said the designation begins a cleanup of “more than a century’s worth of contamination from the creek’s murky bottom.”
The EPA also announced Monday that it was designating sections of the Black River in Jefferson County in upstate New York to the Superfund list. The river empties into the eastern end of Lake Ontario, and its sediment may be contaminated with PCBs, the EPA said. There are now 86 Superfund sites in New York State.
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