Q: Is the oil seeping into Newtown Creek? What is being done to stop this?
A: NYSDEC has observed areas where product appears to seep into the creek in the past. Booms have been put into the creek to contain product seepage in areas where seepage has been observed. Also, the oil companies have installed pumping systems that are designed to prevent groundwater and product from reaching the creek to minimize the potential for future seepage.
Efforts over the last several years have captured the majority of oil seepage prior to entering the creek. Of the 14 oversight events performed in 2017, only one petroleum sheen was observed in Newtown Creek during the events. The identified sheen was relatively small (less than 1 gallon), it was contained within the boom system adjacent to the former Paragon Oil terminal bulkheads, and was removed from the river using absorbant socks. NYSDEC will continue to monitor for seepage and changes in the Creek.
Q: How long will this take to clean up? And how do you know for sure?
A: This is a very difficult question to answer accurately due to the various forms of contamination; legal, political and technological unknowns; and other factors such as the amount of recoverable oil, and the location. At the current time, recovery of free product is the primary goal of remediation. Based on computer modeling, current estimates predict that it will take more than 10 years to clean up the free product, plus additional time to cleanup groundwater and residual product. NYSDEC is continuously monitoring the progress of cleanup activities and periodically provides updates on the progress. These efforts are removing free product from beneath the residential area on a daily basis and make it more possible to address groundwater and soil remediation every day. Even when remedial activities are deemed complete, continued monitoring of the area will occur to verify remedial step are complete.
Q: What is done with the oil after it is extracted from the ground? Do the oil companies make a profit on the extracted oil?
A: The oil companies extract the oil from the ground and temporarily store the oil in tanks at the sites. Periodically, the oil is consolidated and transported off the site. The cost of extraction, transfer, and storage of the oil is far greater than the value of the oil, which is taken to a refinery for reprocessing.
Q: Are vapors from the spill entering my home?
A: In 2006, NYSDEC conducted a vapor intrusion sampling program to determine if harmful vapors from the spill are entering homes. The air in more than 50 homes and businesses were sampled in living spaces, below the homes, and outdoors to determine the effect of the spill on indoor air quality. The sampling indicates that, to date, the spill is not causing vapor-related health problems and that vapor intrusion from the petroleum spill is not occurring.
Q: Does contamination extend beyond the area of free product plume that has been defined by the responsible parties? If so, how will you define the complete scale and scope of contamination?
A: Monitoring wells were installed both in known areas of free product and areas outside the plume. The boundary of the free-product plume is based on quarterly measurements taken at the monitoring wells. While the boundary of the plume is believed to be known in most areas of the spill, NYSDEC is continuously reviewing data to determine if more monitoring points need to be installed. Sampling and monitoring in and around the known areas of contamination will continue throughout the remedial process.
Q: How can we be sure ExxonMobil’s testing is unbiased?
A: Both NYSDEC and Department of Health (DOH) provide independent oversight for work at these sites. Samples are frequently “split,” meaning the oil companies and NYSDEC will collect samples at the same time from the same location to compare results. NYSDEC also visits the sites frequently to observe activities and track progress. There are also protocols that must be followed in sampling and analysis of contamination that allow for further verification of testing.
Q: How do you lose 19,000,000 gallons of oil? Aren’t there controls to measure the product into the system and product out? How do you know product is not still leaking into the soil?
A: The majority of the petroleum releases in this area are believed to have occurred before 1947 and likely date back as far as the 1860s. The controls now used for petroleum refining, storage, and distribution were not in place during that time. The petroleum industry of that period was not required to maintain records on spills, they may not have recovered spilled product, and were not required to report these spills to a regulatory agency. The releases occurred during an extended period of time (more than 100 years) and, until more stringent regulations were in place, likely received little attention.
The majority of historic (pre-1970) storage tanks at the site have been removed. Current regulations for petroleum storage and distribution have specific requirements on inventorying, transferring, and storage of petroleum products. Storage of petroleum generally occurs in tanks with secondary containment. Periodic measurements are required to confirm leakage is not occurring. The transfer of petroleum is monitored during movement from any storage or transfer containment, and it is measured following shipment or transfer.
Q: What is being done with the $19.5 million set aside by ExxonMobil as part of the 2010 settlement of the massive oil spill in Greenpoint’s Newtown Creek?
A: The State of New York created the Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund (GCEF) in 2011 with the $19.5 million obtained through the settlement with ExxonMobil. The purpose of the GCEF is to engage and partner with the Greenpoint community to support projects that address the community’s environmental priorities (such as improving water quality, open space, and air quality). For more information regarding the GCEF, you can view the website at www.gcefund.org or call the GCEF Community Liaison Office at (718) 389-9044 ext. 15.
Q: Why did the BP Terminal become the KM Terminal?
A: In October 2015, Kinder Morgan and BP announced a sale agreement which included the transfer of ownership and operation of the Brooklyn Terminal. The transition took place on February 1, 2016, at which time ownership of the Terminal transferred to a joint venture limited liability company named KM Phoenix Holdings LLC. Kinder Morgan Liquids Terminals LLC became the new operator. BP’s Order on Consent was amended at the time of transfer of operations to include the new owner and operator of the site. Operations at the site remain the same, however, as part of this transition, a new project manager from Kinder Morgan assumed responsibility for the remediation work taking place at the site.
Q: How does Newtown Creek, now a listed EPA Superfund site, relate to the Greenpoint Petroleum Remediation Project? What is the current status of the Newtown Creek investigation and cleanup?
Greenpoint petroleum plume likely impacted the creek in the past, but remediation efforts over the past 20 years have likely stopped additional and future impacts to the creek. For information regarding the status of the Newtown Creek cleanup activities, you can view the website at https://cumulis.epa.gov/supercpad/cursites/csitinfo.cfm?id=0206282 or call the Community Involvement Coordinator at (212) 637-3639.