Newtown Creek’s cleanup could begin 5 years ahead of schedule
Environmental Protection Agency employees told residents at a Wednesday meeting that they were reviewing a plan that could potentially clean up the first two miles of Newtown Creek at least five years ahead of schedule.
The proposal, known as Early Action, would start remediation of the federal Superfund site as early as winter of 2021 or spring of 2022 — well ahead of the EPA’s conservative 2027 predicted start date for the overall cleanup.
The plan — initiated by the groups responsible for the 3.5-mile creek’s contamination (called Potentially Responsible Parties) — was likely put forward for financial reasons, according to EPA Section Chief Stephanie Vaughn.
Vaughn said that if the plan moves forward, it would offer a lot of benefits for the EPA, including starting the remediation early and aiding future cleanup efforts.
“If we think it seems reasonable, and we’re going to make them do a lot of sampling to test it, then as long as it doesn’t delay the process, then it might make sense to allow this to go forward,” Vaughn said. “We would learn a lot.”
The lower two miles of the waterway were selected because they are less complicated environmentally and have fewer tributaries.
Members of the local Community Advisory Group, however, expressed concern at the meeting that if EPA officials devote their time and resources to assessing the Early Action plan, it might delay long-term remediation efforts.
“There is definitely a lot of questions at this point and while we look forward to working with EPA and the PRPs to learn more in the coming months, we must ensure that this does not distract from, slow down or weaken the primary investigation and cleanup for the entire Creek,” Willis Elkins, co-chairperson of the CAG, told the Brooklyn Eagle.
Vaughn, however, vowed that her agency’s number one goal was to prevent any interruption to the overall cleanup.
“We made it absolutely clear to [the PRPs] that our Record of Decision for the entire site takes precedence over this,” Vaughn said. “This cannot delay our work on the site-wide remedy. It does mean we have to commit more resources to review this.”
A Record of Decision is a legally binding agreement for how a federal Superfund site will be cleaned up.
The polluters completed sediment sampling of the first two miles of the creek in July and August to help refine areas of contamination. The EPA will now review the results, and determine if it makes sense to move forward with Early Action.
If they elect to do so, the PRPs will submit a Focused Feasibility Study, which outlines how the groups intend to clean up that portion of the creek.
If supported, EPA will select a remediation plan and use the results to help inform the overall cleanup.
Follow reporter Scott Enman on Twitter.
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