EPA Proposes Plan Related to Combined Sewer Overflow Impacts on the Newtown Creek Superfund Site in New York City

News Releases from Region 02

11/21/2019

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NEW YORK – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is issuing a proposed plan that evaluates impacts of the current and expected future volume of combined sewer overflow (CSO) discharges to the Newtown Creek Superfund Site Study Area in New York City. EPA added Newtown Creek to its Superfund National Priorities List of the country’s highest priority hazardous waste sites in September 2010, and investigations of the entire site are ongoing.

“This proposed plan is an important step forward in advancing the cleanup of the Newtown Creek Superfund Site,” said EPA Regional Administrator Pete Lopez. “In this plan, EPA acknowledges that the work that the City is already obliged to do to improve the water quality of Newtown Creek, including major water infrastructure improvements through compliance with the state imposed long term CSO control plan, will be consistent with meeting the needs of the Superfund program and help EPA fulfill its mission of protecting human health and the environment.”

The Newtown Creek Superfund Site Study Area is comprised of the waters and sediments of Newtown Creek in Brooklyn and Queens. Outside of the Superfund process, the City of New York is under order by the State of New York to implement a CSO Long-Term Control Plan (LTCP) for Newtown Creek. The LTCP, which was approved by the state in June 2018, includes a number of components to reduce future CSO discharges to the creek, including construction of a storage tunnel.  The LTCP is ultimately anticipated to reduce the volume of CSO discharges to Newtown Creek by approximately 61%, and to achieve waterbody-specific water quality standards under the Clean Water Act. EPA evaluated the LTCP in the context of the Superfund site to determine if the volume reductions anticipated under the LTCP are sufficient to meet the needs of the future cleanup of the Superfund site.  EPA has determined that the water pollution volume controls prescribed by the LTCP that the city and state will implement, in accordance with requirements of the Clean Water Act, are sufficient to meet the needs of an eventual Superfund cleanup for the Study Area of the Newtown Creek Superfund Site. The EPA anticipates requiring monitoring of the four largest CSOs to confirm the assumptions made in this proposed plan.

The EPA is conducting in-depth investigations of the extent of the contamination at the entire Newtown Creek Superfund Site in order to determine how best to clean it up over the long-term. This proposed plan is for one aspect of the site.

The EPA will determine in the future whether additional control actions, either in the creek or at CSO points-of-discharge, are needed to address the cleanup of the full site. These additional control actions could include the placement of sediment traps and/or oil sorbent pads at the end of CSO discharge pipes and in-creek maintenance dredging to address potential accumulation of contaminated solids near the CSO discharges. 

During the public comment period, EPA will hold two public meetings in New York City to inform the public of EPA’s proposed plan for reducing the volume of CSO discharges to the creek, and to receive public comments on the proposed plan and other options that were considered. The public meetings will be held on December 9 at 6:30 p.m. at Sunnyside Community Services, 43-31 39th Street in Queens and on December 11 at 6:30 p.m. at P.S. 110, 124 Monitor Street in Brooklyn.

Written comments on the proposed plan, postmarked no later than close of business December 23, 2019, may be emailed to schmidt.mark@epa.gov or mailed to Mark Schmidt, U.S. EPA, 290 Broadway, 18th Floor, New York, NY 10007.

To view the EPA’s proposed plan for the site, please visit www.epa.gov/superfund/newtown-creek

Newtown Creek is part of the core area of the New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary, which has been designated by EPA as an “estuary of national significance.” In the mid-1800s, the area adjacent to the 3.8-mile Newtown Creek was one of the busiest hubs of industrial activity in New York City. Numerous industrial facilities were located along its banks, including more than 50 oil refineries, as well as petrochemical plants, fertilizer and glue factories, sawmills, and lumber and coal yards. The 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. Some factories and facilities still operate along its banks, and various adjacent contaminated sites have contributed to its contamination. Today, as a result of its industrial history, including countless spills, Newtown Creek is badly polluted.

Follow EPA Region 2 on Twitter at http://twitter.com/eparegion2 and visit our Facebook page, http://facebook.com/eparegion2.

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