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Put Exxon profits into Newtown fix: Gioia

Record profits for an oil giant should lead to more rapid cleanup along Newtown Creek, which straddles the border between Queens and Brooklyn, City Councilman Eric Gioia (D−Sunnyside) said Tuesday.

“Exxon is out of excuses,” Gioia said, noting ExxonMobil made $45.2 billion in profits last year, breaking the previous record of $40.6 billion set in 2007. “They have the money, now they need to get to work.”

The ExxonMobil oil spill along Newtown Creek in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, is estimated at between 17 million and 30 million gallons in a 2007 study by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

An ExxonMobil spokeswoman said the company is awaiting the findings of a federal Environmental Protection Agency study of the waterway before changing its remediation tactics.

“In the meanwhile, we are continuing our remediation program at Brooklyn Terminal in Greenpoint, a program which is making significant advancements in recovering underground product,” she said.

Laura Hoffman, a lifelong Greenpoint resident, suspects the oil spill has contributed to the poor health of her extended family.

“I can’t think of an aunt or an uncle in my family who hasn’t died of cancer,” she said, noting both her parents succumbed to brain diseases.

Brooklyn Community Board 1 member Evan Thies said a citywide study has shown the area has higher disease rates than the citywide average and called on ExxonMobil to sponsor a health study of the specific area.

While it waits, the Newtown Creek Alliance has partnered with a group led by a Hunter College graduate student to conduct a neighborhood survey of Greenpoint, East Williamsburg and Maspeth.

“Unlike a government study, we’re not going in with a theory to prove or disprove,” said Teresa Toro, a community outreach coordinator for the survey. “Residents typically are the experts, so the idea is to go there first.”

Gioia joined a number of ecological groups that sued the nation’s largest oil company in 2006 over the cleanup. Exxon now spends $15 million a year on removing the oil. That suit is still pending in federal court, he said.

The banks of Newtown Creek were lined with oil refineries when it was an industrial powerhouse in the 19th and 20th centuries. The massive oil spill is believed to have started anywhere from 50 to 100 years ago by ExxonMobil’s predecessor, Standard Oil.

ExxonMobil agreed to remove petroleum from the ground underneath Greenpoint in 1990. So far it has extracted 9 million gallons, Gioia said.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at jwalsh@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 154.

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