Today’s news:

City and oil companies to conduct Newtown Creek pollution study

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, New York City and five oil companies named as potentially responsible for the pollution in Newtown Creek finalized an agreement Monday that will start the first phase of the waterway’s long-term cleanup.

Because of this agreement, the city and oil companies will conduct a study, estimated to take place for five to seven years, to determine the extent of pollution to the creek and options to clean it. The study, which is the first phase of the cleanup, will begin in late summer.

The 3.8-mile waterway that runs along the Queens-Brooklyn border from the East River below Long Island City to Maspeth was an industrial center in the mid-1800s and a dumping spot for the city’s toxins, oil and raw sewage. A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter discovered an old 17-million-gallon oil plume in the creek near Greenpoint, Brooklyn, in 1978.

A 2009 EPA test also found pesticides; metals; polychlorinated biphenyls, toxic and organic pollutants often used as fluids in transformers, capacitors and coolant; and volatile organic compounds, which are contaminants that can evaporate into the air.

“The agreement also ensures that the parties responsible for the pollution, not the taxpayer, will foot the bill,” said Judith Enck, EPA regional administrator.

In addition to the city, the five oil companies named as responsible are Phelps Dodge Refining Corp., Texaco, BP Products North America, National Grid NY and the ExxonMobil Oil Corp., which also reached a $25 million settlement with the state to clean the creek.

“Today’s announcement means there is a framework and a plan to gather the necessary data from Newtown Creek that will be essential in determining the proper remedial alternatives,” Bill Cunningham, spokesman for the Newtown Creek Group, which represents the oil companies, said Monday.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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