Superfund Site Profile
Newtown Creek is a tidal arm of the New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary that forms the northern border of the borough of Brooklyn and the southern 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. In addition to more than 50 oil refineries that were located along its banks, industrial facilities also included 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, warehouse and distribution facilities, petroleum bulk storage facilities, municipal and utility infrastructure and other industrial and commercial facilities still operate along the Creek. Various contaminated sites along the Creek have contributed to the contamination at Newtown Creek. Today, as a result of its industrial history, including countless spills, Newtown Creek is one of the nation’s most polluted waterways.
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