New York State Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo announced Thursday that he intends to sue ExxonMobil Corp., as well as four other companies, to force the cleanup of a 17-million-gallon oil spill in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and to restore Newtown Creek, a contaminated waterway separating Queens from Brooklyn.
Notices of Intent to Sue under the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) were sent to ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron, Keyspan, and Phelps Dodge, charging the companies with creating "substantial endangerment to health and the environment” in Newtown Creek and portions of the adjacent shoreline.
ExxonMobil and Chevron were also sent Notices of Intent to Sue for violating the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) by continuing to discharge pollutants into Newtown Creek without a permit.
According to the Attorney General the Greenpoint site is one of the worst environmental disasters in the U.S., larger than the Exxon Valdez, and it is ExxonMobil’s oil that is contaminating the land under Brooklyn's homes and businesses. He said that ExxonMobil must be held responsible for the oil spill and accused them of dragging their feet in pursuing cleanup procedures.
Attorney General Cuomo is suing BP, Chevron, Keyspan, and Phelps Dodge as co-contributors to the contamination of Newton Creek, and is holding them accountable for cleaning up and restoring the creek, a 3.5-mile-long waterway that flows into the East River.
It is estimated that at one time almost 17 million gallons of oil, from ExxonMobil’s refinery and storage operations, seeped into the ground and contaminated more than 100 acres of Greenpoint; about 55 acres is now contaminated. By comparison, the Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of oil in Alaska.
Oil from ExxonMobil’s Greenpoint spill was discovered seeping into Newtown Creek in 1978.
Several other oil companies, including Chevron and BP, operated storage facilities along the creek that also released oil into the ground.
Phelps Dodge operated a copper smelting plant on the north bank near the Kosciuszko Bridge and is being held responsible for contaminating the creek with heavy metals, including cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, and mercury, and petroleum-related hydrocarbons, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) which have been found on the site.
Creek sediments have also been contaminated by predecessors to Keyspan, which operated several manufactured gas plant (MGP) facilities along the waterway. Preliminary investigations have uncovered several contaminants from these facilities, including metals, PCBs, petroleum products, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), chlorinated solvents, semivolatile organic compounds (SVOCs), and ferro-ferric cyanide complexes.