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The Environmental Protection Agency has announced a proposal to designate the Meeker Avenue Plume in Greenpoint, Brooklyn as a federal Superfund site.

If the area is added to the EPA’s Superfund National Priority List, it would become eligible for a cleanup as New York City’s fourth Superfund site. The Superfund program seeks to remediate the most polluted sites in the United States, and it allows the EPA to bill the cost of their cleanups to those who caused the pollution. Three other toxic Superfund sites in the city are currently undergoing lengthy cleanup processes, which will take many more years and hundreds of millions of dollars to complete.

Since 2007, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) has been working to map and mitigate the Meeker Avenue Plume, an underground reservoir of chemical contamination, but the full extent of the problem has remained elusive.

Poisonous vapors from the plume have so far been detected inside dozens of homes and businesses across a wide swath of Greenpoint and East Williamsburg. The area impacted by the Meeker Avenue Plume encompasses about 45 blocks, which is roughly bounded by Norman Avenue in the north, Monitor Street in the west, Withers Street in the south, and the Newtown Creek in the east.

Greenpoint, Brooklyn is already one of the most toxic neighborhoods in New York City, befouled by more than a century of industrial waste, noxious chemicals and raw sewage. It is home to the Greenpoint oil spill, the largest urban oil spill in the United States, where decades of spillage have left 17 to 30 million gallons of oil underground. Greenpoint is also bordered by the Newtown Creek Superfund site, one of the most contaminated bodies of water in the country.

The Meeker Avenue Plume is a collection of underground chemical contaminants that seeped into the neighborhood’s soil and groundwater from local dry cleaning businesses, foundries and metalworking shops. The pollutants, primarily chlorinated solvents and petrochemicals derived from carbon, were first discovered in 2005 by the Exxon Mobil Corporation and the New York State Department of Transportation as part of the cleanup of the Greenpoint oil spill.

Remediation of the oil spill has been ongoing since 1978, when it was first spotted seeping into the Newtown Creek by the Coast Guard. More than 12.9 million gallons of oil have been pumped out from beneath the homes and businesses of Greenpoint so far, according to the Newtown Creek Alliance.

The spill’s 55-acre footprint overlaps significantly with these chemical plumes, but each poses different health risks to those living and working in the area. The most frequently found contaminants in the Meeker Avenue Plume include tetrachloroethylene, trichloroethylene, cis-1,2-dichloroethylene, and vinyl chloride — chemicals and gases commonly used in dry cleaning fluid, brake cleaner, metal degreasers and to produce a stiff plastic called polyvinyl chloride (PVC). These chemicals are now wafting their way into the basements of Greenpoint’s homes and businesses, as invisible carcinogenic vapors. The National Cancer Institute has linked exposure to these toxic materials with kidney, liver, brain and lung cancer, as well as lymphoma and leukemia.

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(this story/news/article has not been edited by PostX News staff and is published from a syndicated feed)

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