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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?



The Newtown Creek site has now been divided into three operable units (OUs):

OU1 includes the entire Study Area, as defined in a 2011 Administrative Settlement Agreement and Order on Consent (AOC) between EPA, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP), and a group of five private parties known as the Newtown Creek Group (NCG). The Consent Order (CERCLA Docket No. CERCLA 02-2011-2011) requires the Respondentsto perform a Remedial Investigation (RI) and Feasibility Study (FS) for the site under EPA oversight.  Anchor QEA, consultant for the NCG, is currently completing the multi-year, phased RI/FS.

OU2 relates to current and reasonably anticipated future releases of CERCLA hazardous substances from combined sewer overflow (CSO) discharges to the Study Area, as described in a 2018 AOC between EPA and NYCDEP (CERCLA Docket No. CERCLA-02-2018-2020). A focused feasibility study (FFS) for OU2 was conducted by NYCDEP, with EPA oversight, and the FFS report was completed in November 2019. EPA released a Proposed Plan announcing the preferred remedy on November 21, 2019. The public comment period for this Proposed Plan closes on December 23, 2019.

OU3 refers to the evaluation of a potential interim, early action for the lower portion of Newtown Creek from creek mile 0 to creek mile 2 (CM 0-2) of the Study Area as described in a 2019 AOC between EPA and the NCG (CERCLA Docket No. CERCLA-02-2019-2011). An FFS for OU3 is currently being performed by NCG, with EPA oversight.


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What Is the Current Site Status?


The OU1 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 was completed in 2017 . 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 and was completed in Spring 2019. The Respondents are also developing models that will assist, during the FS phase of the RI/FS, in evaluating remedial alternatives.  

The first version of the Draft RI Report was submitted to EPA for review on November 15, 2016 by the NCG pursuant to the Consent Order. The second version of the Draft RI Report was submitted in April 2019 and is currently under review by EPA. 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.  In addition to the RI/FS, a baseline human health risk assessment was completed and approved in June 2017, and a baseline ecological risk assessment was completed and conditionally approved in September 2018. The NCG initiated predesign field work for a Treatability Study (TS) in order to assess the feasibility of various remedy options for the site-wide remedy options in Fall 2019. Predesign field work will be completed by early 2020.


For OU2, a focused feasibility study (FFS) is currently being prepared by NYCDEP, with EPA oversight. The objective of the FFS is to evaluate the impacts of hazardous substances released and anticipated to be released to the Study Area from CSO discharges under current and reasonably anticipated future flow conditions as identified in the Combined Sewer Overflow Long Term Control Plan (LTCP) for Newtown Creek, which was approved by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in June 2018. A focused feasibility study (FFS) for OU2 was conducted by NYCDEP, with EPA oversight and the report was completed in November 2019. EPA released a Proposed Plan announcing the preferred remedy on November 21, 2019. The public comment period for this Proposed Plan closes on December 23, 2019.


For OU3, an FFS is currently being prepared by the NCG, with EPA oversight. The objectives of the FFS are to confirm the appropriateness of an interim EA remedy for OU3 and to develop and evaluate a focused range of remedial alternatives for this OU. A Sediment Characterization Study (SCS) was completed in Summer 2019 to further characterize surface sediment in the OU3 Study Area. A draft FFS Report is expected in December 2019.






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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, Simsmetal East LLC (a subsidiary of Sims Metal Management, Inc.),Darling Ingredients Inc, Sunoco Entities (Sunoco Inc, Energy Transfer L.P.).

The search for additional PRPs is ongoing.

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