Newtown Creek and its tributaries are a part of the New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary that forms the border between the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens.
Since the 1800s, Newtown Creek has been a major New York City industrial waterway. More than 50 major manufacturing operations were located along its banks, including oil refineries, petrochemical plants, fertilizer and glue factories, sawmills, and lumber and coal yards. The area was crowded with commercial vessels, including large boats bringing in raw materials and fuel and taking out oil, chemicals, and metals.
By the early 1900s, the creek’s shores were host to more than 40 oil refineries, metal and chemical plants, manufactured gas plants, municipal and industrial discharge pipes, shipping and barging, and coal handling and storage facilities. Many of the industries in the Newtown Creek area discharged waste directly into Newtown Creek and its tributaries; upland spills of waste also eventually seeped into Newtown Creek and its tributaries.
In the early 1990s, New York State determined that Newtown Creek was not meeting water quality standards under the Clean Water Act. Since then, a number of limited investigations of the Study Area have taken place by various private entities or state and federal agencies.
In September 2009, Newtown Creek was proposed for the National Priorities List (NPL).
In September 2010, Newtown Creek was listed on the NPL and designated a Superfund site by EPA.
In July 2011, EPA entered into an Administrative Settlement Agreement and Order on Consent with the City of New York, and the five companies (Phelps Dodge, Texaco, BP, National Grid, and ExxonMobil) known as the Newtown Creek Group, to complete an investigation of Newtown Creek and its tributaries.
In 2011 – 2013, the first phase of the Remedial Investigation (RI) Field Sampling Program was implemented, which included multiple physical and ecological surveys, as well as surface water, sediment, and air sampling, in the Study Area and reference areas.
In 2014 – 2015, the second phase of the RI Field Sampling Program was implemented in the Study Area and reference areas, which included: additional physical and ecological surveys; additional surface water, sediment, and tissue sampling; and sampling of combined sewer overflows, stormwater, permitted discharges, and groundwater.
In 2016, the drafts of the Baseline Human Health Risk Assessment, Baseline Ecological Risk Assessment, and Remedial Investigation Report were submitted to EPA.
In the summer 2017, the Feasibility Study Field Program work will include additional nearshore and subsurface sediment and groundwater sampling, geotechnical sampling, and gas ebullition sampling.
In 2019, the draft Feasibility Study Report is to be submitted to EPA.
Newtown Creek Industrial History
Many decades of urban development in the Newtown Creek area have led to the creation of freshwater point source discharges. Dating back to the 1800s and the early 1900s, untreated stormwater, industrial wastewater, and domestic sewage were generally discharged directly to Newtown Creek. Types of current point source discharges to the Study Area are combined sewer overflow (CSO) discharges (containing combined flows of stormwater and sanitary and industrial wastewater); stormwater discharges; treated effluent from the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, which overflows to Whale Creek during rainfall events; and treated discharges from groundwater remediation and dewatering systems. CSOs are the largest contributor of discharges to Newtown Creek, representing approximately half of the total point sources flow. There are several types of stormwater discharges to Newtown Creek. These include municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s), major stormwater outfalls, overland flow, highway drains, and discrete discharges from individual sites. Solids and pollutants that enter the Study Area from point source discharges and overland flow (primarily CSOs and MS4s) represent a potentially significant ongoing source to Newtown Creek, especially in the upstream portion of Newtown Creek and the tributaries.