Superfund Information Systems: Site Profile

Superfund Site:

NEWTOWN CREEK
BROOKLYN, QUEENS, NY

Cleanup Activities

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Background

Newtown Creek is a tidal arm of the New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary, and forms the northwestern-most border of the Borough of Brooklyn with the southwestern-most border of the Borough of Queens in New York City.  It is a tributary of the East River and it itself includes five branches (or tributaries) along its 3.8-mile reach.  Historically, Newtown Creek drained the uplands of western Long Island and flowed through wetlands and marshes.  However, due to heavy industrial development and governmental activities dating from the 1800's, formerly wet areas have been filled, Newtown Creek has been channelized, and its banks have been stabilized with bulkheads and rip rap. The historic development has resulted in changes in the nature of Newtown Creek from a natural drainage condition to one that is governed largely by engineered and institutional systems. In the mid-1800s, the area next to the 3.8-mile-long creek was one of the busiest industrial areas in New York City. More than 50 refineries were located along its banks, including oil refineries, petrochemical plants, fertilizer and glue factories, sawmills, and lumber and coal yards. Newtown Creek was crowded with commercial vessels, including large boats bringing in raw materials and fuel and taking out oil, chemicals and metals. In addition to the industrial pollution that resulted from all of this activity, the city began dumping raw sewage directly into the water in 1856. During World War II, the creek was one of the busiest ports in the nation. Currently, factories and facilities still operate along the creek. Various contaminated sites along the creek have contributed to the contamination at Newtown Creek.

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What Has Been Done to Clean Up the Site?

A Consent Order for the performance of a Remedial Investigation (RI) and Feasibility Study (FS) by a group of parties potentially responsible for the investigation and cleanup of the site (the Respondents), under EPA oversight, was issued by EPA in July 2011.  Anchor QEA, consultant for the Respondents, is currently completing field work as part of a multi-year phased RI/FS. The Phase 1 RI field work began in February 2012 and was completed in March 2013. The Phase 2 RI field work began in May 2014 and has been substantially completed. FS Field work began in Spring of 2017 and will be completed in early 2019.  

A draft RI report was submitted in November 2016 and is currently being revised, and preparation of a draft FS report is being initiated. The human health risk assessment was approved in June 2017, and the baseline ecological risk assessment was conditionally approved in September 2018.  

 

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What Is the Current Site Status?

The Remedial Investigation (RI) commenced in July 2011 and is focused on a study area defined in the Consent Order as the waters and sediments of Newtown Creek.  Fieldwork for the RI was conducted in two phases under the oversight of EPA to determine the nature and extent of contamination at the site. The Phase 1 work, which included surveys of physical and ecological characteristics of Newtown Creek, as well as sampling of surface water, surface sediments, subsurface sediments and air, began in February 2012 and was completed in March 2013. The Phase 2 work began in May 2014 and has been substantially completed. The Phase 2 RI work includes, but is not limited to, further delineation of surface sediments, subsurface sediments and surface water, as well as the investigation of non-aqueous phase liquid, groundwater and other sampling in support of the human health and ecological risk assessments, such as biota sampling. An additional phase of fieldwork for the Feasibility Study (FS), including ebullition studies and further NAPL delineation, began in Spring 2017. The Respondents are also developing models that will assist, during the FS phase of the RIFS, in evaluating remedial alternatives.  

The first version of the Draft RI Report was submitted to EPA for review on November 15, 2016 by the Respondents pursuant to the Consent Order. The second version of the Draft RI Report is expected in early 2019. The RI contains all the data that was collected and analyzed during Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the RI, available data from FS fieldwork and also includes drafts of the hydrodynamic and sediment transport models.  

 

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Enforcement Information

A number of Potentially Responsible Parties (PRPs) have been named for the site. The first group, called the Performing PRP Respondents, have all signed a 2011 Administrative Order on Consent to conduct the Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study for the Site. These Respondents include The City of New York, BP America, Inc., The Brooklyn Union Gas Company (d/b/a National Grid), ExxonModbil Oil Corporation, Phelps Dodge Refining Corporation (now Part of Freeport McMoRan, Inc.) and Texaco, Inc. (now part of Chevron Corporation).

Another group of PRPs has been recently named. These include the Consolidated Edison Company of New York, National Railroad Passenger Corporation (AMTRAK), American Premeir Underwriters, Inc., Connell Limited Partnership, The Long Island Railroad Company, Motiva Enterprises, LLC, Shell Oil Company and Simsmetal East LLC (a subsidiary of Sims Metal Management, Inc.).

The search for additional PRPs is ongoing.

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