Contributing Monkie G Living Staff Monkies
Published on October 14, 2007
While the Exxon Valdez disaster is certainly the most well known oil spill in U.S. history, it’s not the biggest. Not by a long shot. Unfortunately. In 1950, Newtown Creek – a New York city waterway that separates Brooklyn and Queens – was unknowingly polluted after an underground explosion leaked oil from refinery tanks owned by Standard Oil (now Exxon Mobil) into the water and nearby soil. The damage went unnoticed for twenty-eight years until a Coast Guard helicopter noticed a plume that led to the discovery of huge pool of oil at the bottom of the creek. At the time, the amount of the spill was estimated at 17 million gallons. Cleanup began in 1979 and continues to this day – a far less effective and less immediate effort than was awarded the Exxon Valdez’s spill of 11 million gallons.
A new report from the Environmental Protection Agency now estimates the amount of oil spilled in Newton to be around 30 million gallons, nearly three times the amount in the Valdez disaster.
And while local residents have been kept in the dark about the potential health hazards of the spill, the damage has become more and more visibly evident, gathering (according to the New York Times) “in subsurface reservoirs, mixing with groundwater, creating toxic vapors and and seeping, slowly but inexorably, into the creek”. In all, it’s believed that 55 acres of land and water are polluted.
Lawsuits have been filed against Exxon Mobil (who entered a cleanup agreement with the State Department of Environmental Conservation in 1990) and local residents and businesses are urging the federal government to get involved.
One thing is certain — something has to be done.