Newtown Creek, Brooklyn & Queens, NY

Greenpoint, East Williamsburg, Bushwick, Maspeth, Ridgewood, Long Island City, Hunters Point, Blissv

superfund

The public
Site Description[1] 
LOCATION: Newtown Creek is an estuarine waterbody that forms a portion of the boundary between the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens in New York City. The site definition includes all the waters, shoreline, channel, tidal-affected zones, and sediments of Newtown Creek, and its tributaries (natural, created, and controlled), from its headwaters to its confluence with the East River. Tributaries include Whale Creek (and the Whale Creek Overflow Canal), Dutch Kills, Maspeth Creek, East Branch, and the English Kills. SITE FEATURES: The entire creek system extends approximately 3.8 miles from the English Kills to the East River. A substantial portion of the creek is contained by bulkheads or riprap and its width averages 200-300 feet. Average depth in the navigable channels is 20 feet below mean low water level. Total surface area of the creek is approximately 170 acres. CURRENT ZONING/USE: The Newtown Creek is primarily used for the transport of materials and goods produced and consumed by the industry, businesses and development projects along its banks. A small amount of recreational boating also occurs there. Various forms of fishing have been documented in the creek despite applicable fishing restrictions in place for the creek waters. The surrounding area is still very diverse in terms of land use and potential contaminant contributors. Upland areas adjacent to the creek that are contributing to its flow and contaminant loading include oil storage facilities, inactive hazardous waste disposal sites, active manufacturing facilities, spills, and other uncontrolled sources. The total original natural drainage area of the creek and tributaries encompassed nearly 7,650 acres. HISTORICAL USES: Newtown Creek is a waterway that has served as a conduit for the transportation of raw materials and products dating back nearly 200 years. It has also been used for the disposal of numerous wastes, including sewage, industrial, and commercial wastes, through outfalls flowing into the creek. Direct releases of wastes have also entered Newtown Creek from the creek banks. The area immediately surrounding the creek has been, and remains, the location of many forms of industrial and commercial activity. Such historic industrial uses include shipbuilding, textiles, metal smelting, and oil refining. SITE GEOLOGY & HYDROGEOLOGY: The original watershed has been permanently altered by urbanization such that there is virtually no freshwater flow to the creek other than stormwater and municipal combined sewer overflows (CSOs) during wet weather. There are 20 CSO outfalls and over 100 stormwater discharges to the Creek. Significant outfalls are located in the English Kills, East Branch, Maspeth Creek, and Dutch Kills. Inflow is estimated to be in excess of 1.4 billion gallons annually. Much of this flow contains significant concentrations of contaminants, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), metals, oil and grease, coliform bacteria, and solid waste. The creek is classified by New York State as Class SD saline surface water with best uses designated for fishing and fish survival. Class SD waters have natural or man-made conditions limiting attainment of higher standards. The creek does not attain these standards at present. Documented water quality problems include low dissolved oxygen, odors, and solid waste. Sediments on the creek bottom are contaminated with PCBs, heavy metals such as lead, mercury, and copper, and petroleum hydrocarbons. OTHER: The NYSDEC nominated the creek and its tributaries to the National Priorities List (NPL) in January 2009. The site was formally proposed to the NPL on September 23, 2009 and was added to the NPL by rule-making notice in the Federal Register of September 29, 2010. To document the site's eligibility for the NPL and prepare a Hazard Ranking Score, EPA initiated an Expanded Site Investigation in the creek in February 2009. The investigation included extensive sampling of sediment. The Expanded Site Inspection effort and report were completed in July 2009. The USEPA is the lead agency and has negotiated and developed an RIFS work plan and adminstrative order on consent with identified responsible parties. The DEC provided comments on the RIFS work plan in February 2011 and the work plan was finalized in July 2011. Sampling of creek sediments began in April 2012.

Summary of Project Completion Dates
Projects associated with this site are listed in the Project Completion Dates table and are grouped by Operable Unit (OU). A site can be divided into a number of operable units depending on the complexity of the site and the number of issues associated with a site. Sites are often divided into operable units based on the media to be addressed (such as groundwater or contaminated soil), geographic area, or other factors.<form> </form> Site Environmental Assessment
Newtown Creek has a history of intensive industrial use dating back nearly 200 years. Historic industrial uses include shipbuilding, textiles, metal smelting, and oil refining. The surrounding area is still very diverse in terms of land use and potential contaminant contributors. Upland areas adjacent to the creek that are contributing to its flow and contaminant loading include oil storage facilities, inactive hazardous waste disposal sites, active manufacturing facilities, spills, and other uncontrolled sources. The original watershed has been permanently altered by urbanization such that there is virtually no freshwater flow to the creek other than stormwater and municipal combined sewer overflows (CSOs) during wet weather. There are 20 CSO outfalls and over 100 stormwater discharges to the Creek. Significant outfalls are located in the English Kills, East Branch, Maspeth Creek, and Dutch Kills. Inflow is estimated to be in excess of 1.4 billion gallons annually. Much of this flow contains significant concentrations of contaminants, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), metals, oil and grease, coliform bacteria, and solid waste. The creek is classified by New York State as Class SD saline surface water with best uses designated for fishing and fish survival. Class SD waters have natural or man-made conditions limiting attainment of higher standards. The creek does not attain these standards at present. Documented water quality problems include low dissolved oxygen, odors, and solid waste. Newtown Creek was added to the NPL on September 29, 2010. EPA listed the site based on surface water contamination and heavily contaminated sediment. Sampling has detected a variety of pollutants in excess of sediment criteria, including the metals antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, nickel, selenium, silver, and zinc; polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH); total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH); polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs); and volatile organic contaminants (VOC). The extent of contamination traverses the entire length of the Creek. The contaminants of greatest concern in sediment are: 1) Poly-cyclic aromatic hydrocarbons(PAHs), including several carcinogenic compounds, are ubiquitous in the creek at levels from low ppm up to thousands of ppm in the areas of highest impact. 2) Metals, including Lead with levels up to 2,400 ppm (sediment criteria median effect level (MEL) = 218); Mercury with typical levels in the 1-4 ppm range (MEL= 0.71); Copper with levels from 500 to 39,200 ppm(MEL=270); Zinc with levels up to 15,500 ppm (MEL= 410). 3)Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are present in accumulated sediments at total concentrations ranging from 1 to 106 ppm, with an average concentration of >3 ppm (DEC sediment criteria is 0.1 ppm). 4) TPH: Petroleum hydrocarbons are ubiquitous,at levels up to 74,000 ppm. Sediment contamination constitutes a significant threat to the environment.

Site Health Assessment
People using the creek for recreational purposes such as swimming and boating may come into direct contact with chemical contaminants and harmful biological organisms. People may come in contact with contaminants present in the shallow creek sediments while entering or exiting the creek during recreational activities. Fish and shellfish in the creek are likely to contain the same chemical contaminants that are present in surface water and shallow creek sediments; therefore, people who consume fish and shellfish from the creek are likely to be consuming these contaminants as well. People are not drinking the contaminated creek water because the area is served by a public water supply that obtains its water from a different source.

Contaminants of Concern
Type of Waste Quantity of Waste
COPPER UNKNOWN
LEAD UNKNOWN
MERCURY UNKNOWN
PCB-AROCLOR 1242 UNKNOWN
PCB-AROCLOR 1254 UNKNOWN
POLYCHLORINATED BIPHENYLS (PCB) UNKNOWN
ZINC UNKNOWN
  1. DEC Environmental Site Remediation Database.  Site Name: "Newtown Creek".

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